Wikipedia talk:Pronunciation respelling key

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Foreign sounds[edit]

The article for John Boehner includes a note that reads, in part, "The German pronunciation of the name Boehner/Böhner is [ˈbøːnɐ] BURH-na". This uses the respelling key here to respell a sound that is not actually in the key, presumably by analogy with a similar sound (in non-rhotic dialects). The key should probably make a note of what to do in cases of foreign sounds such as this one. Gordon P. Hemsley 06:55, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

The respelling key is intended only for English words. Foreign words should use IPA only. Angr (talk) 10:39, 5 March 2013 (UTC)
I've seen it used for non English names, e.g. Lady Gaga. Guess this confirms what many have feared: Some people try to establish this idiocy as a "standard". --Fenris.kcf (talk) 11:19, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

Use respelling examples in key[edit]

The key lists the respelling symbols and example words that have the sound in question, but it does not demonstrate how to respell those example words in full. This can sometimes lead to confusion about how the symbols are properly used. Gordon P. Hemsley 07:01, 5 March 2013 (UTC)


On the whole, I think pronunciation respellings (PR) should be discouraged; I strongly favor IPA instead. There are many reasons. One is that it hinders communication between speakers of different languages, if they don't even use the same system for representing the sounds of language. It's a bit like us Americans using feet and pounds when the rest of the world uses metric. Esperantists claim that tyranny thrives on a lack of communication and understanding, and I agree, even though I despise Esperanto for a variety of reasons and do not believe it should be adopted as the “universal language”.

Another reason is that it reduces people's awareness of other languages. This is particularly important because so many English speakers can only speak English, which I find shameful. Also, PR makes people seem uneducated, like they don't know or can't learn IPA.

Perhaps my biggest objection to PR is that alot of the PRs are blatantly illogical, even ugly. Some of this is inevitable, because English has more vowels and consonants than there are letters, so odd digraphs are needed. However, I agree that, in particular, the respellings <ay> for /ei/ (face), and <y> or <eye> for /ai/ (time), are illogical; in a logical respelling system the former would be written <ei> or <ey> and the latter, <ai> or <ay>, almost a complete reversal of symbols. What in particular bothers me is that /stein/ is spelled <stain> and /stain/ is spelled <stein> when it should be vice versa. Another thing that bothers me is having /au/ (house) be spelled <ou> or <ow> instead of <au> or <aw>, encouraged in turn by another illogical symbol, <aw> or <au> for /ɔ/ (lawn). This is a major motive for me being a strong supporter of phoneticizing English (fonetisaizing Inglish).

I admit, however, that sometimes PR's can be desirable. However, would it be realistic to change Wikipedia's PR symbol for /ei/ (face) from <ay> to <ey>? In any "phoneticized" form of English, I would hate (heyt) to see the spelling of /ei/ normalized to <ai> or <ay> rather than <ei> or <ey>, so my aforementioned suggested change (cheynje) in Wikipedia's PR for English may (mey) be in the public interest.--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 09:20, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

You seemed to be bothered by a lot of things, which I might suggest (based on personal experience) speaks to issues broader than just the use of a respelling system on Wikipedia. Part of maintaining a neutral point-of-view involves operating in reality rather than in the ideal; thus, one's opinions on the shame or logicality of the reality of many Americans don't have much sway in what we do on Wikipedia. One of the benefits, in my opinion, of using a respelling system on Wikipedia is that it has the potential to collapse insignificant pronunciation distinctions across dialects, particularly with regard to the realization of vowels. (For example, I pronounce "cab" as with æ-tensing, while you might not; however, this insignificant distinction would be hidden if the word were respelled as kab.) The respelling system is not meant to be logical from an absolute perspective; rather, it is meant to be as intuitive as possible to people who already know how to read English (no matter what dialect they speak). In that vein, I would imagine that the choice to use 'ay' over 'ey' for /ei/ and 'y' or 'eye' over 'ay' was made to avoid ambiguity in instances like 'key' and 'hey' and 'bay', where a respelling might represent a pronunciation that does not coincide with the homographic English word. I agree, however, that such a choice might cause ambiguity in a different context, so it might be a decision worth re-evaluating. Gordon P. Hemsley 16:57, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
I understand your point. Using <ey> as PR for /ei/ could be confusing if it results in <key> representing /kei/ when the ordinary word key is pronounced /ki:/. As a better alternative to reforming PR, I recommend using PR less and IPA more, and phoneticizing English; that is, changing the way English is spelled so that it is more phonetic, more logical. On the latter you can help by phoneticizing your name, if it is unphonetic: Stephen → Steven, Phillip → Filip, Sylvia → Silvia, etc. Also, regardless what part of the English-speaking world you are from, you can choose American spelling over British if the former makes more sense, and British if the latter makes more sense.--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 15:29, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
If you want to advocate for phoneticizing English spelling, Wikipedia is not the venue for that. Gordon P. Hemsley 16:04, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
Okay. I'll advocate for spelling reform somewhere else. I was mainly explaining my views on PR.--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 10:26, 20 May 2013 (UTC)
Btw, some articles for which I've deleted PRs: Archaea, Eukaryote, Fuchsia, Heuristic.--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 15:11, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

Why is this here?[edit]

I previously raised (almost three years ago) the basis for including this separate respelling system alongside IPA. It was not apparent to me then, and nor is it now, that there was ever a proper discussion prior to setting this up. As it is redundant to the international standard system, and is solely based on the original research of Wikipedia editors, I am suggesting that we get rid of it, unless there is a demonstrable project-wide consensus to include it. I realise a lot of well-intentioned and hard work has been done by editors to produce it, but I really think it merely adds noise and clutter and dumbs down our articles. Articles that have both IPA and this made-up system in the lead sentence look terrible to me. Would I be better off going to MfD, an RfC or what? I thought I would raise it here in the first instance. --John (talk) 17:18, 19 June 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia never requires "proper discussion" prior to setting anything up. If we did, nothing would ever get done around here. The point of this respelling system is to placate those who can't read IPA and can't be bothered to spend 45 minutes learning it. I don't quite understand the charge of "original research", though; it's no more or less based on original research than the IPA system is, and since it's losslessly convertible to and from IPA, it requires no original synthesis or unverifiable personal knowledge to implement if the IPA is given. Angr (talk) 18:10, 19 June 2013 (UTC)
Does this respelling system exist in the real world outside Wikipedia then? Generally, I'd say that introducing an entirely redundant and synthetic system to placate a minority of lazy and/or uneducated users definitely would need a consensus to do here. Nothing in your answer convinces me that we need this. --John (talk) 18:36, 19 June 2013 (UTC)
This specific one perhaps not but it's very similar, for example, to the one used in the World Book Encyclopedia. And to judge from the amount of whining about the IPA we have to put up with, I'm not convinced it's a minority of users who prefer this system. If you really think Wikipedia is better off without it, you're free to nominate it for deletion, but it survived a deletion attempt before, and that was when it was in article space and subject to stricter requirements than it has in the Wikipedia namespace. Angr (talk) 10:27, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
IPA suffers from one primary logic failing. When looking to see how an English word is pronounced (by definition, language specific), no one, not even a foreigner benefits from an international (by definition, language non-specific) formalism. IPA was a formalism for formalism sake and does not solve a problem and creates confusion in its wake. I want English specific representations of phonemes for English pages, Spanish specific representations of phonemes for Spanish pages, and Chinese specific representations of phonemes for Chinese pages. And outside of folks attempting cerebral arguments for what they perceive to be somehow the fairest and most accessible greater good, all this has done is aggravate people. A pronunciation formalism that doesn't resemble the language that people have to *learn* BEFORE they can learn about the word itself???? It'll never be universally accepted by the general population of any country.Tgm1024 (talk) 23:12, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Yep. Just like the metric system. No one benefits from an international system of units of measurement. The metric system is formalism for formalism's sake and does not solve a problem and creates confusion in its wake. I want America-specific units for weights and measurements in the U.S., and Mexico-specific units for weights and measurements in Mexico, and China-specific units for weights and measurements in China. A system of weights and measures that doesn't resemble the things people actually weigh and measure in their everyday life? It'll never be universally accepted by the general population of any country. Angr (talk) 12:22, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Broken analogy. Sorry, try again.Tgm1024 (talk) 20:16, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
It's a very good analogy. Opposition to both the metric system and the IPA boils down to nothing more than "I'm not familiar with this system, and change frightens me." Angr (talk) 21:05, 26 June 2013 (UTC)


What is the point of describing "kh->loch->/x/ but then adding "Pronounced like k by many speakers"? We may as well say that "s" is pronounced "th" by many speakers, which is equally true. It's all very well saying this is descriptive and not prescriptive, but having a "guide" or a "key" implies some sort of prescriptivism! "Ch" is a Scottish sound and it is properly pronounced as /x/. --John (talk) 18:44, 19 June 2013 (UTC)

Replacing /x/ with /k/ isn't a speech impediment like a lisp, though. Many English speakers outside of Scotland really can't make a /x/ and replace it with /k/. Probably 90% or more of Americans when singing "Loch Lomond" or speaking of the Loch Ness Monster will pronounce loch with a /k/. Even I probably would in most circumstances, and I have no difficulty saying /x/. (I use it all the time when I'm speaking German.) But if I said something about the Loch Ness Monster to another American and pronounced it with /x/ it would sound affected and pedantic. For someone from Scotland it's different. (It's only replaced with /k/ at the end of a syllable though; at the beginning of a syllable in words like Hanukkah and chutzpah it's replaced with /h/.) Angr (talk) 10:22, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
How do you pronounce Bahrain or Dhahran, when talking to another American? --John (talk) 10:58, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
Bahrain is /bɑˈreɪn/. I don't suppose I've ever uttered Dhahran in my life, but if I did, my first attempt would be /dɑˈrɑn/. In both cases probably influenced more by the spelling than by the Arabic pronunciation. Angr (talk) 13:36, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
The BBC always pronounces them with the /x/ sound. I am very sceptical indeed of the claim that anyone cannot pronounce it. I think people sometimes do not like to pronounce it, but it is that which is an affectation. I am deeply uncomfortable having a page which states this in the WP namespace, without either a reference or a consensus to include it. --John (talk) 14:34, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
I meant "cannot pronounce" in the sense of "haven't learned to pronounce", not the sense of "are physically incapable of pronouncing". Angr (talk) 15:04, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
How about chutzpah? How do you pronounce that in your ideolect? I lived in the States for five years and I heard "hoots-pa" a few times but most Americans seem to be able to pronounce it correctly, with the /x/ in the start of the word. As you say, when Americans speak German they seem to say "ich" and "nicht" without any problems. I am getting more uncomfortable as this conversation goes on; we should always defer to reliable sources for encyclopedic content, and to as wide a consensus as possible for guidelines and policies. This seems to have neither. --John (talk) 18:15, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, I saw you had mentioned that above. This directly contradicts the guide, you know. How about Spanish words like jamón? Many Americans can speak Spanish successfully in spite of this supposed inability. --John (talk) 18:26, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
Well, the variety of Spanish most familiar to Americans has already turned /x/ to /h/ itself, so /haˈmon/ is what we hear Spanish speakers say, not just our faulty rendering of /xaˈmon/. (Americans who simplify /hw/ to /w/ also do so in Spanish words, so Joaquín is rendered /wɑˈkin/.}} Chutzpah I do pronounce with /x/, since its /x/ is part of the charm of the word, but Hanukkah I pronounce with /h/. And as I mentioned above, some people (including myself) avoid /x/ not because they can't articulate it but rather because it isn't part of our phonemic inventory. I have no difficulty pronouncing loch and Hanukkah with /x/, but I don't, because those words are stored in my head as having /k/ and /h/ respectively; I'd only use /x/ in them if I'm intentionally "putting on" a Scottish or Yiddish accent as a joke, as when I wish my Jewish friends a "/x/appy /x/anukkah!" As for sources, consider this quote from John C. Wells's Accents of English (p. 190): "A more English, less Celtic pronunciation commonly involves the replacement of this /x/ by /k/: English people call Buchan /ˈbʌkən/. In Ireland /h/ is common corresponding to putative earlier /x/, as in Donaghadee, Haughey, though some speakers do have a /x/." Or in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by the same author, loch is given as "lɒx lɒk" for RP and "lɑːk lɑːx" for GenAm (in both cases the bold face indicates the pronunciation to be preferred by learners of English as a second language); chutzpah is given as "ˈhʊts pə ˈxʊts-, -pɑː"; Hanukkah is given only with /h/, San Joaquin only with /w/, San Jose only with /h/. Are there any other Scots words with /x/ besides loch that are likely to be familiar to Americans? Angr (talk) 20:18, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
Broch I suppose. Is this respelling guide explicitly aimed at Americans who are unable to pronounce certain sounds or use the IPA system? Because I think that's a little insulting to Americans (when it's obvious that they can pronounce the sounds when they want to) and a little annoying to our other readers who have to put up with two mutually redundant spelling guides on many articles, just to cater for Randy from Boise. --John (talk) 07:20, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
Well, I didn't know the word broch before now. I don't know whether it's really only Americans who say, "The IPA is gibberish and I can't read it. Why doesn't Wikipedia use a normal pronunciation key?" (see the top box at Help talk:IPA), but there are plenty of people who do feel that way and are just as opposed to using IPA as you are to using respelling. So we use both. After all, a good compromise leaves everyone equally unhappy. Angr (talk) 11:51, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
Just having the IPA by itself leaves no one happy but academics.Tgm1024 (talk) 20:20, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Nonsense. You merely have to be literate to learn the IPA. Learning to read IPA transcriptions of one's own native language takes no more than an hour. Learning to produce IPA transcriptions takes somewhat longer, and learning the symbols for phonemes one doesn't have in one's own language takes longer still, but it takes very little time for a literate speaker of English to learn to read IPA transcriptions of English. Virtually all English dictionaries published outside the U.S. use the IPA, and their target audience is definitely not only academics. Angr (talk) 21:04, 26 June 2013 (UTC)


The "/r/" in the consonants table should be "/ɹ/". Valkura (talk) 22:45, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

Text to speech?[edit]

Is there a text to speech program that can handle this PR key? Illegitimate Barrister 11:59, 19 July 2014 (UTC)

Error in the title?[edit]

The title uses the 'schwa' in the title key, for pronunciation. Is this incorrect? The sound is 'ɵ,' as in the 'u' in nun, isn't it? (talk) 18:09, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

What's your native language or accent of English? I don't know any variety of English (excluding foreign accents of English such as Dutch-coloured English) where u in nun is pronounced as [ɵ], the close-mid central rounded vowel. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:57, 20 July 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 13 September 2014[edit]

In "It does not use special symbols or diacritics apart from the schwa, "ə", which is used (for example) for the a in about.", "or" should be "nor", and "a" and "about" should be in quotations. 2601:E:100:BD7:C949:A686:7408:FBC9 (talk) 21:54, 13 September 2014 (UTC)

Red information icon with gradient background.svg Not done: "or" is acceptable, and a and about are already italicized, which is appropriate. —Granger (talk · contribs) 21:04, 18 September 2014 (UTC)
"Or" is not only acceptable, it's preferable to "nor" after "not". —Aɴɢʀ (talk) 17:42, 21 September 2014 (UTC)

Automated stress?[edit]

How do I prevent automatic stress formatting? I'm trying to get awkh|ən|TAW|shən but it forces this to AWKH|ən|TAW|shən which is wrong. Akerbeltz (talk) 12:51, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

The documentation says: When unstressed syllables follow one another (– . . .), they need to be hyphenated together in a single parameter". −Woodstone (talk) 17:20, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
>.< I did look at that but must have missed it. Many thanks. Akerbeltz (talk) 19:17, 17 October 2014 (UTC)

Free lax vowels[edit]

The way this key writes lax vowels, as simple a e i o u, seems liable to cause confusion when they fall in open syllables, since many of them have naive readings in this position which are tense. For instance, Up Helly Aa indicates /ˈʌphɛliə/ UP-he-lee-ə, where he suggests rather /hiː/. Even if you think this is accidental (the problem being that he collided with a word), there are several such landmines around.

Should we do anything about this? The sort of thing I'd think of as a good fix would be to double the following onset C to close the syllable (UP-hel-lee-ə); but that doesn't play so nicely with the marked syllable divisions, and it's less uniform, which some might dislike. 4pq1injbok (talk) 12:58, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

While it's tempting to want to maximize the syllable onset whenever possible, English doesn't really work that way. The lax vowels are checked, so the syllable divisions would necessitate that they are followed by consonant. I would say UP-he-lee-ə is incorrect in that regard and UP-hel-ee-ə would be the way to go. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 17:15, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
Eh, that works for me too. (I learned a theory of English phonology with ambisyllabicity for such consonants way back when. But perhaps there's no need for it; I haven't thought so much about the problem since.) 4pq1injbok (talk) 22:08, 5 March 2015 (UTC)