Kenyon and Knott

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Kenyon and Knott is the informal name for A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, first published by the G. & C. Merriam Company in 1944, and written by John Samuel Kenyon and Thomas A. Knott. It provides a phonemic transcription of General American pronunciations of words, using symbols largely corresponding to those of the IPA. A similar work for English pronunciation is the English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones, originally published in 1917 and available in revised editions ever since.[1]

Kenyon and Knott use a broad transcription rather than a narrow one. For example, the long o vowel of "toe", which is a diphthong in open syllables in most American accents, is represented by the single symbol [o], rather than [oʊ] as it would be represented in a narrow transcription.

Deviations from the IPA found in Kenyon and Knott are mostly made for typographical convenience:

  • The symbol [ᴜ] (a small capital U) is used instead of [ʊ] for the vowel of foot and the second part of the diphthong of mouth.
  • The "looptail g" Looptail g.svg is used instead of the "opentail g" Opentail g.svg of the IPA.
  • The symbol [r] is used instead of [ɹ]/[ɻ] to denote the postalveolar/retroflex approximant of American English.
  • The markers for primary and secondary stress tilt slightly toward the center rather than being absolutely vertical. In other words, they look more like \ and / than like | and |.
  • The colon [:] is used in place of IPA [ː] to indicate length, although length is rarely marked in Kenyon and Knott.
  • In foreign words, a barred g (ǥ) is used instead of [ɣ] to indicate a voiced velar fricative.

One principal application of Kenyon and Knott's system is to teach American English pronunciation to non-native speakers of English. It is commonly used for this purpose in Taiwan, where it is commonly known as "KK Phonetic Transcription" in Chinese.

Many of the pronunciations in Kenyon and Knott seem antiquated today and dictionaries such as Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, ed. John C. Wells, Longman Group Ltd. 1990, ISBN 0-582-05383-8, have replaced it, providing more contemporary pronunciations.


  1. ^ Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary, Daniel Jones. 18th ed (current as of 2012)

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