Help talk:IPA/English

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
The IPA is gibberish and I can't read it. Why doesn't Wikipedia use a normal pronunciation key?
The IPA is the international standard for phonetic transcription, and therefore the Wikipedia standard as well. Many non-American and/or EFL-oriented dictionaries and pedagogical texts have adopted the IPA, and as a result, it is far less confusing for many people around the world than any alternative. It may be confusing in some aspects to some English speakers, but that is precisely because it is conceived with an international point of view. The sound of y in "yes" is spelled /j/ in the IPA, and this was chosen from German and several other languages which spell this sound j.

For English words, Wikipedia does use a "normal" pronunciation key. It is Help:Pronunciation respelling key, and may be used in addition to the IPA, enclosed in the {{respell}} template. See the opening sentences of Azerbaijan, Cochineal, and Lepidoptera for a few examples. But even this is not without problems; for example, cum laude would be respelled kuum-LOW-day, but this could easily be misread as koom-LOH-day. English orthography is simply too inconsistent in regard to its correspondence to pronunciation, and therefore a completely intuitive respelling system is infeasible. This is why our respelling system must be used merely to augment the IPA, not to replace it.

Wikipedia deals with a vast number of topics from foreign languages, and many of these languages contain sounds that do not exist in English. In these cases, a respelling would be entirely inadequate. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Pronunciation for further discussion.
The IPA should be specific to a particular national standard, and the national pronunciations should be listed separately.
Listing multiple national pronunciations after every Wikipedia entry word quickly becomes unwieldy, and listing only one leads to accusations of bias. Therefore, we use a system that aims at being pan-dialectal. Of course, if a particular dialect or local pronunciation is relevant to the topic, it may be listed in addition to the wider pronunciation, using {{IPA-all}} or {{IPA-endia}}.
The use of /r/ for the rhotic consonant is inaccurate. It should be /ɹ/ instead.
The English rhotic is pronounced in a wide variety of ways in accents of English around the world, and the goal of our diaphonemic system is to cover as many of them as possible. Moreover, where there is no phonological contrast to possibly cause confusion, using a more typographically recognizable letter for a sound represented by another symbol in the narrow IPA is totally within the confines of the IPA's principles (IPA Handbook, pp. 27–8). In fact, /r/ is arguably the more traditional IPA notation; not only is it used by most if not all dictionaries, but also in Le Maître Phonétique, the predecessor to the Journal of the IPA, which was written entirely in phonetic transcription, ⟨r⟩ was the norm for the English rhotic. No modern dictionary uses ⟨ɹ⟩ either.

General American pronunciations of loanwords[edit]

How reliable are pronunciations such as /ˈkɔːʃiːtseɪ/ for Košice? The majority minority of GA speakers who have the cot-caught merger (which generally means that /ˈkɔːʃiːtseɪ/ would be rendered as [ˈkɑʃitseɪ], which I find unlikely), and our article General American tells us that foreign rounded mid back vowels are approximated with /oʊ/ in North America, unlike RP where both /əʊ/ and /ɒ/ are possible options.

Pinging IvanScrooge98 (talk · contribs). Do you usually check whether Americans really pronounce words as you suggest, or do you just go along with the dictionaries? Don't take it as an attack please. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 05:57, 17 August 2019 (UTC)

@Kbb2: actually I just check the dictionaries and keep the pronunciations that are possible according to English phonology, because sometimes it looks like they try to just approximate the original even when it wouldn’t sound natural in English (e.g. relying on AHD we would have something like /ˈkoʊʃɪtsɛ/, with /oʊ/ as you said but with a final /ɛ/ that couldn’t technically be there). Maybe that is the problem: sometimes you are not sure if it is the actual English pronunciation or just a way to come “closer” to the native one. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 07:01, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@IvanScrooge98: Cot-caught-merged speakers strongly prefer /oʊ/ over /ɑː/ for stressed foreign ⟨o⟩, probably because they consider the back [ɑː] and the central [äː] to be the same sound. The latter sounds absolutely nothing like ⟨o⟩ in e.g. Spanish. In fact, /ɑː/ is regularly used in the United States to approximate foreign ⟨a⟩, which is often central.
IMO all (or at least most) pronunciations of loanwords with stressed /ɔː/ (excluding the /ɔːr/ sequence) should be removed. See [1] and [2]. The pronunciation of foreign ⟨o⟩ as /ɔː/ is not only counter-intuitive in English (completely so in RP, not quite completely counter-intuitive in GA which has the lot-cloth split) but simply impossible for cot-caught-merged speakers who wouldn't use /ɑː/ but /oʊ/. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 07:24, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@Kbb2: I understand. Or maybe we could add a note on this help for the speakers with the merger, unless /ɔː/ is also very uncommon for those with the split. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 07:48, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@IvanScrooge98: (The lot-cloth split is always present in those varieties of GA that don't merge cot with caught). I doubt that the way this works is that the speakers without the merger use /ɔː/ and those who have the merger use /oʊ/. Rather, I think that a source that claims that an American pronunciation of any given loanword contains a stressed /ɔː/ for orthographic ⟨o⟩ when not before /r/ and /ŋ, ɡ, θ, f, s/ is simply unreliable and should be dismissed (before /ŋ, ɡ, θ, f, s/ it should be checked in Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, which probably is a reliable source for American pronunciations). It doesn't list an actual American pronunciation, but rather tells Americans how to pronounce that word as closely to the original pronunciation as possible. That's different. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 10:14, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@Kbb2: what I meant is whether /ɔː/ may be used by speakers with the split alongside /oʊ/ or is actually uncommon. But yes, we probably should check more reliable sources on this point. Thank you. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 11:07, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@IvanScrooge98: There's no GA without the lot-cloth split. You're mistaking the lot-cloth split with the cot-caught merger, which neutralizes the distinction between /ɑː/ and /ɔː/ and thus reverses the lot-cloth split by merging all instances of /ɔː/ with /ɑː/ (cot-caught-merged GA is an accent without contrastive THOUGHT, rather than one that doesn't have the lot-cloth split).
I find it implausible that speakers without the cot-caught merger would use /ɔː/ where those who have the merger use /oʊ/. I've never heard of such a distinction in AmE. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 12:30, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
When dealing with English pronunciations of places like this I prefer to see each different pronunciation given in each dictionary as a "data point" cos there sure as hell isn't a standard anglo approximation of "Košice" which everyone would agree on. I would consider such pronunciations reliable, but not necessarily exhaustive. I more often hear English speakers pronounce it with /i/ or /eɪ/ at the end than /ə/ but I suppose all three are possible, same for /ɔː/ x /oʊ/ x /ɒ/ in the first syllable. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 12:02, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@Filelakeshoe: But there is a standard way of approximating foreign ⟨o⟩ in American English, and it's /oʊ/. GA doesn't have a contrastive /ɒ/ vowel, which is the same as /ɑː/ (which is the most common approximation of foreign ⟨a⟩). In BrE there's usually a choice between /ɒ/ and /oʊ/ - see [3] and [4]. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk)
BTW, just an idea here and feel free to dismiss it as my OR, but are pronunciations of European placenames in Webster necessarily contemporary approximations of local forms? There are Slovak immigrants in America since the 19th century, perhaps the /ˈkɔːʃiːtseɪ/ pronunciation has been in use since before the cot-caught merger was even a thing. For example I notice our article on Lodz gives the pronunciation /luːdʒ/ from Merriam-Webster which might reflect an archaic Polish pronunciation from before the /l/ → [w] shift completed, from the time when the Poles arrived to the US, perhaps... – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 12:51, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
Interesting. My copy of Wells's Longman Pronunciation Dictionary gives /wʊdʒ; wuːtʃ/ for RP, /loʊdz; lɑːdz; wuːdʒ/ for GenAm, and [wutɕ] for Polish. Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 13:24, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
P.S. Maybe Merriam-Webster's /l/ doesn't "reflect an archaic Polish pronunciation from before the /l/ → [w] shift completed, from the time when the Poles arrived to the US." Article Łódź says: "In 1839, over 78% of the population was German," so I wonder if the /l/ of German was the decisive factor. Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 13:45, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@LiliCharlie: That could've been the case. To this day I hear many Germans pronounce Polish ⟨ł⟩ as a plain /l/, which is a much better choice than /v/ (Standard German, as we know, doesn't have /w/). Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 13:48, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@Kbb2 and IvanScrooge98:: The typical pronunciation of foreign and especially first-time-heard foreign ⟨o⟩ in GenAm is indeed /oʊ/, regardless of the cot-caught merger. Foreign-name examples of this include Barbados, Bogotá, Dodoma, Mogadishu, Skopje, Xhosa, etc. (Notice that the current pronunciation on the page Mogadishu doesn't account for the GenAm pronunciation by listening to how Americans actually pronounce it here.) And by the way, I think most sources on the cot-caught merger agree not that The majority of GA speakers have it but rather that nearly a majority of GA speakers have it: so, in fact, a majority don't have it. Wolfdog (talk) 12:42, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@Wolfdog: True, my bad. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 12:54, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
So from now on we should avoid listing these pronunciations, right? (With the exceptions above, possibly.) Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 13:44, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
Which pronunciations do you mean by "these pronunciations"? Wolfdog (talk) 15:26, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
@Wolfdog: the ones with /ɔː/ for ⟨o⟩. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 15:45, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
What about /ɔːr/ and /ɔːl/ for ⟨or⟩ and ⟨ol⟩, wouldn't it be okay in those cases? Like in Olomouc and Córdoba. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 16:02, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
I don't think there's any need to avoid potentially helpful pronunciations (since there are plenty of exceptions to assumed rules of foreign pronunciations). We can certainly differentiate using the templates {{IPAc-en|US|...}} and {{IPAc-en|UK|...}}. As to Filelakeshoe's point, I'd say yes to the /ɔːr/ idea but I'd be cautious with /ɔːl/, since Americans tend to pronounce stressed ⟨ol⟩ as /oʊl/ (like in Angola, Kolkata, Mongolia, Poland, etc. off the top of my head). Wolfdog (talk) 16:18, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
That’s it. We should ascertain in which positions it is natural to have this sound and in which not, e.g. ⟨r⟩ normally affects the preceding consonant, so it would be perfectly fine to have /ɔːr/ in such transcriptions. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 16:22, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
Does that mean that Amercan speakers who don't merge horse and hoarse have /ɔːr/ in those loanwords? Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 16:47, 17 August 2019 (UTC)
From the words listed at horse–hoarse merger, loanwords seem to go either way. "California" has the "horse" vowel and "Borneo" has the "hoarse" one. I suppose analogy to similar sounding words comes into play. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 17:47, 17 August 2019 (UTC)

@IvanScrooge98, Filelakeshoe, Wolfdog, and LiliCharlie: What about polysyllabic pronunciations in which most or all vowels are strong? For instance, /ˌɑːmɑːˈroʊneɪ/ instead of /ˌɑːməˈroʊneɪ/ for Amarone and /kɑːmˈpɑːnjɑː/ instead of /kɑːmˈpɑːniə/ for Campania strike me as non-English. It seems to me that many of the pronuciations of loanwords in the American Heritage Dictionary and, perhaps to a somewhat lesser extent, in MW are made up prescriptive nonsense that doesn't account for vowel reduction nor for the way Americans anglicize loanwords. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 10:48, 19 August 2019 (UTC)

@Kbb2: yes, in those cases we probably should avoid to transcribe them. Lately I have been trying to avoid them too. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 10:54, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
I tend to agree with your prescriptive nonsense theory... or at least that there are still holdovers from the days when dictionaries subscribed to prescriptive nonsense. (One example that always springs to mind is how American dictionaries give the pronunciation of plantain as /ˈplæntɪn, -ən/ when I've never heard any Americans say this and the majority variant is certainly /plænˈtn/: a form that some, like, don't even present as a possibility!) As for Amarone, the GenAm assumption probably would include the schwa unless the speaker was being very deliberate, while the Campania pronunciation would also include a schwa or two: /kɑːmˈpɑːnjə/ or /kəmˈpɑːnjə/ strike me as natural, though now listening to the 7 speakers of Youglish I hear an even larger diversity of (frankly, somewhat bizarre) pronunciations, which in addition to the variants we've given also includes variants like the stressed syllable being pronounced /peɪn/ or /pæn/ [pɛən]! So maybe there's nothing we can do for Campania. Wolfdog (talk) 11:20, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
@Wolfdog: I've fixed Campania using the RDPCE. It's almost funny how authors of transcriptions such as /kɑːmˈpɑːnjɑː/ don't realize that this pronunciation is almost as far away from the original as /kɑːmˈpɑːniə/. What's even more strange is that I've seen transcriptions of Dutch names in the American Heritage Dictionary that have /ɑː/ for both types of ⟨a⟩, even though length is essential (you'll be understood when you use [ɑː] for the front /aː/ and [a] or even [æ] for the back /ɑ/ but not when you get the length wrong). This is just weird. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 11:42, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
Yes, the same goes for German words like Bach, German [bäx], which is [bɑːk] for most English speakers, though short [-æ-] would be easier for German native speakers to understand. — I think that attempts at foreign pronunciations are rarely made in order to be more readily understood by foreigners, but to gain prestige among the people that surround you. Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 12:21, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, the /ˈoʊloʊˌmoʊts/ someone just added to Olomouc is a bit strange. While it is true that Americans love butchering Czech by throwing unnecessary diphthongs everywhere (and it is butchering as it leads to the phonemes /o/ and /ou/ merging and no one understands them), surely an "English" pronunciation of a city name would be expected to adhere to English phonotactics which means the weak syllable in the middle here is definitely reduced. I have only recently been won over by the argument that having "English" pronunciations alongside the local ones is necessary and I might be returning to the other side of the fence, for cases where there is no established English usage. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 12:43, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
@Filelakeshoe: You can't expect Czech contrasts to be maintained in English. Americans approximate foreign ⟨o⟩ with /oʊ/ and it just so happens that Czech contrasts /o/ with /ou/, which is a non-starter for Americans (/ˈɑːləmoʊts/ is probably just as unacceptable to to cot-caught-merging Americans who don't have a phonemic /ɔː/ as it is to native speakers of Czech - another reason to be careful with /ɔː/ in loanwords). Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 12:49, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
I am not expecting Czech contrasts to be maintained in English, I was referring to Americans not maintaining Czech contrasts while speaking Czech. I am still unconvinced that every "foreign ⟨o⟩" (in all 6000 odd dialects of "foreign") needs to be approximated as /oʊ/ even in weak syllables, less so that we should be telling people to say /ˈoʊloʊˌmoʊts/ but not /ˈɔːləmoʊts/ just to cater to the proclivities of people with a certain vowel merger. Please consider me opposed to the inclusion of these "English" pronunciations. Where there is no established usage, put the local pronunciation and let people decide how to approximate that in their dialect. This is why we have IPA help pages, with the "Nearest English equivalent" column. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 13:17, 19 August 2019 (UTC)
@Filelakeshoe: That's something else though. We're talking about English.
/ˈɔːləmoʊts/ is counter-intuitive to all Americans, not just those with the cot-caught merger. The default vowel for foreign ⟨o⟩ is /oʊ/, especially in syllables with primary stress. In less stressed syllables it can be /ə/ or perhaps /ɑː/. As Wolfdog has already confirmed, there's no such thing as speakers without the cot-caught merger using /ɔː/ where those with the merger use /oʊ/. There's no such dichotomy in American English.
If "Olomouc" were an English word stressed on the first syllable, the only possible pronunciations in General American would begin with /oʊ/ and /ɑː/. The lot-cloth split didn't affect /ɒ/ before /l/ - see English orthography#Combinations of vowel letters. This is why Mogadishu as /ˌmɔːɡəˈdiːʃuː, -ˈdɪʃuː/ isn't counterintuitive for Americans, but /ˈɔːləmoʊts/ is (I'd expect /ˈɔːləmoʊts/ to be spelled A(u)lomouts or something like that, compare Salzburg and Auschwitz).
LPD gives /ˈɒləmaʊts, ˈɒlɒ-/ as the RP variants and /ˈoʊloʊmaʊts/ as the GA variant. I imagine that the second /oʊ/ is weak, prone to be reduced to a schwa (so [ˈoʊɫɵmaʊts] ~ [ˈoʊɫəmaʊts]). Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 08:18, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
Interesting, so LPD holds out against the Czech /au/ → /ou/ vowel shift, which completed in the 19th century. I think this entire thread proves my point that there is no established English pronunciation of Olomouc. Do Americans really pronounce "Auschwitz" with /ɔː/ at the beginning? Surely those Americans just don't know how the word is pronounced, and are taking wild guesses from reading the letters. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 08:39, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
John C. Wells, the author of the LPD, is aware that the current Czech pronunciation of ⟨ou⟩ is /ou/, and explicitly mentions that Olomouc is pronounced [ˈo lo mouts] (=[ˈo.lo.mouts]) in Czech — for the benefit of RP, GA, and other English speakers who wish to sound more Czech, but less English. (Note that according to LPD, English and Czech have different syllabifications: for RP and GA, the /l/ is the coda of the first syllable, for Czech, it is the onset of the second syllable. I don't think we should indicate syllable breaks, or only do so in exceptional cases, as this is a matter of considerable disagreement among authors of pronunciation dictionaries.) Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 10:29, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
Pronouncing the last syllable as /oʊ/ or /ou/ rather than /aʊ/ would not make one sound "more Czech and less English", it would make one sound more modern and less like they've quantum-leaped here from the 18th century. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 13:09, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
@Filelakeshoe: Remember that our // is just a diaphonemic notation. In England alone it can signify [əʊ], [əʉ], [əɨ], [ɐʊ], [ɐʉ], [ɐɨ], [oʊ], [oː] or other options. Many of these are significantly different from Czech /ou/ which shows no such variation (is [ˈɒləməɨts] or [ˈɒləmɐʊts] close to the original Czech pronunciation? The /t/ can also be pre-glottalized or glottalized, which isn't a thing in Czech) Because of that, I see no problem with transcribing the American pronunciation of "Olomouc" as /ˈoʊloʊmoʊts/ or /ˈoʊloʊmaʊts/, if the latter is an established pronunciation. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 13:25, 20 August 2019 (UTC)
@IvanScrooge98: /ˈrɑːdɔːm/ for Radom looks dubious to me. The sequence /ɔːm/ is very rare in General American and not an intuitive pronunciation of the orthographic ⟨om⟩. It seems to me that /ɔːm/ is just a Middle English variant of contemporary /oʊm/, as in "home" (ME /ˈhɔːm/), so not a sequence that would be used in rhotic English (except for a handful of words).
On the other hand, I'd expect e.g. the surname of Saša Ognenovski to be pronounced /ˌɔːɡnəˈnɔːfski/ or at least /ˌɑːɡnəˈnɔːfski/ in GA. /ˌoʊɡnəˈnoʊfski/ looks implausible to me, so /ɔː/, /ɑː/ and /oʊ/ seem to be in a kind of a complementary distribution in GA (at least as far as loanwords are concerned), with the first two being mostly confined to environments preceding (certain) consonant clusters (of course, /ɑː/ occurs in pretty much all positions when the spelling is ⟨a⟩, ⟨ah⟩, etc.). /ɔː/ can only occur before /ŋ, ɡ, θ, f, s/ and perhaps /n/, but not /m/.
I'd say let's just leave the UK pronunciation at Radom. It has an American-style /ɑː/ for the stressed ⟨a⟩, which is good enough. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 15:47, 25 August 2019 (UTC)
@Kbb2: it doesn’t to me, as it may in other cases, and it is reported by Oxford, which is definitely more reliable than other sources. However, considering what you say and since something with /oʊ/ is surely more likely, I wouldn’t really mind changing the pronunciation on the page, if you have references for a different one. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 16:31, 25 August 2019 (UTC)
@IvanScrooge98: What's the reason you find it plausible, apart from the fact that it's listed in an Oxford dictionary? It's almost certainly a prescribed pronunciation, rather than a report of actual usage (as it kind of must be with names like this, Radom isn't Warsaw or Cracow). I still think it shouldn't be listed. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 16:56, 25 August 2019 (UTC)
@Kbb2: yeah, maybe by analogy with other nasals /n ŋ/ I felt it doesn’t sound implausible. Leave /ˈrɑːdɒm/. Italy.png イヴァンスクルージ九十八(会話)Italy.png 18:20, 25 August 2019 (UTC)
@IvanScrooge98: Will do. And actually, /ɔːn/ is also a rare sequence and not necessarily an intuitive pronunciation of orthographic ⟨on⟩. /ɔːŋ/, on the other hand, seems to be natural for Americans.
IMO, the criteria for including a prescribed (rather than a confirmed, established) pronunciation of a loanword with /ɔː/ in a WP article should ultimately be the following: would a speaker of American English without the cot-caught merger pronounce /ɔː/ in that position if this were a native English word, or would the natural reflex be to use /oʊ/ or /ɑː/? If it's the latter, we shouldn't include it. Let's also not forget that /ɔː/ in New York and Philadelphia can be a centering diphthong [ɔə] or even [ʊə]. This /ɔː/ (as prescribed by dictionaries) obviously means General American [ɒː], rather than [ɔə ~ ʊə] in New York and Philadelphia or [ɑː] in some Inland Northern American English (where it contrasts with front unrounded [aː]). Not to mention that some North American English (notably Canadian) uses [ɒː] for the cot-caught merged vowel. So there's some overlap between back realizations of the (PALM-)LOT-THOUGHT vowel in cot-caught-merging dialects on one hand and the THOUGHT vowel in dialects without the cot-caught merger on the other. It's my suspicion that /ɑː/ and /ɔː/ are treated pretty much exactly as one vowel in loanwords, even in dialects that distinguish "cot" from "caught". They appear in complementary distribution and there's a preference for /ɑː/ wherever /oʊ/ (which is the primary choice) doesn't fit. It's obviously a different story when the spelling contains ⟨a⟩, as then there's a choice between /ɑː/ and /æ/ (or /ɑː/ and /ɛ/ before /r/), with /æ/ being rarer. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 08:11, 26 August 2019 (UTC)
What do you think, Nardog? Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 08:47, 26 August 2019 (UTC)
@Kbb2: Banning specific derivations of vowels doesn't strike me as a good idea. Determining what counts as an incidence of such a derivation is not going to be easy; some borrowings may have assimilated to the English lexicon and genuinely be pronounced with /ɔː/. (It's also WP:CREEP-y.)
An alternative is to ban unnatural/artificial/prescriptive pronunciations more broadly, but this also doesn't seem practicable. The problem is that dictionaries rarely indicate which pronunciations are ones actually used by speakers and which are ones they recommend based on etymology or whatever. Perhaps the best we can do to prevent the latter from creeping in is to make it explicit at WP:PRON etc. that our documentation of pronunciations must be descriptive and that editors are encouraged to exercise editorial discretion when a sourced pronunciation is found to be leaning too much on the prescriptive side (in other words, just because an RS includes a transcription doesn't warrant its inclusion on WP). Nardog (talk) 03:45, 27 August 2019 (UTC)
What do you think, Kbb2? Nardog (talk) 17:04, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: (Thanks for reminding me of this). This is gettting a bit too hard for me. Your suggestion regarding WP:PRON is spot on, though. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 17:43, 29 September 2019 (UTC)

This is a similar link that IvanScrooge98 & I discussed almost 4 months ago: NKM1974 (talk) 18:34, 03 September 2019 (UTC)

If you need a native GA informant without cot-caught merger, feel free to ping me. For that matter, I wonder if it would make a useful subpage addition to WikiProject Language (or Linguistics, or English) to offer a page where users could voluntarily add themselves under headings listing various regional variants of pronunciation (or usage)? A corresponding Talk page there, could be used to poll users in a given group, when topics like this one arose. Mathglot (talk) 19:54, 6 September 2019 (UTC)

That's effectively a call for OR. Whenever one finds a pronunciation in a cited RS dubious, the only acceptable options are replacing it with another RS or removing it (whether BOLDly or based on a consensus). Nardog (talk) 20:12, 6 September 2019 (UTC)
Not when it's on a Talk page. It's the same idea as having pages, categories, and userboxes which list people who can translate between different languages. It's a volunteer resource to make Talk page discussion more effective. It doesn't change verifiability requirements in any way. Mathglot (talk) 23:48, 6 September 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: I think that the fact that we should follow WP:RS doesn't mean that we can't omit the IPA where multiple speakers of a given variety of English tell us that it's wrong. Discussing the accuracy of transcriptions before including them in articles should definitely be a thing because we're not required to provide pronunciation. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 17:43, 29 September 2019 (UTC)
I wasn't clear on what exactly Mathglot's suggestion entailed, but yeah, as I said, so long as it's about removing or retaining a sourced pronunciation or replacing it with another sourced one, and not about replacing it with an unsourced one, I don't see a problem. Nardog (talk) 17:48, 29 September 2019 (UTC)


Do Americans really say /ˈfɪnboʊɡədoʊtər/ for Finnbogadóttir? That's a lot of unstressed syllables following the stressed one, two of which have full vowels. I'd expect /fɪnˌboʊɡəˈdoʊtər/ (/fɪnˌbɒɡəˈdoʊtər/ in the UK) to be the assimilated pronunciation. Icelandic doesn't have phonemic stress anyway. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 20:57, 13 September 2019 (UTC)

Of course they don't "really". It's one of many possible approximations of that particular jaw-cracker Icelandic patronym which Merriam-Webster has chosen to publish. That doesn't mean we should replace it with another, unsourced approximation and present that as "the English pronunciation", preferably it should be removed altogether so as not to mislead our readers into thinking that there is an established English pronunciation. For the record I expect that name as spoken by a British sports commentator would probably come out as /fɪnˌboʊɡədɒˈtiər/. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 06:29, 14 September 2019 (UTC)
For the record, my opinion on these "English pronunciations" is that they should only be added to articles if multiple sources attesting the same pronunciation can be found. There is such a thing as there being no established pronunciation in English and in such cases we should not give off the impression that there is, nor should we clutter the lead with every possible approximation. – filelakeshoe (t / c) 🐱 06:34, 14 September 2019 (UTC)
@Filelakeshoe: For the record, my opinion on these "English pronunciations" is that they should only be added to articles if multiple sources attesting the same pronunciation can be found. I agree. I also think that we should provide the lowest amount of variants possible, especially if sources agree on what is the most common variant. In such cases (Istanbul is an example of that) one transcription might be enough. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 09:11, 14 September 2019 (UTC)


Regarding Nardog’s recent edits, I’d like to open a discussion that I should have opened long ago. What is the point of using ⟨ɜː⟩ only for non-rhotic pronunciations, when it is precisely in those varieties that the contrast with /ɜːr/ is neutralized? I think it would be more logical to either suppress the phoneme altogether and merge it with the rhotic one (more so as it is a marginal one), or instead only applying it to transcriptions for rhotic accents, where it would contrast (if attested; I’m not going to question whether ⟨œ⟩ is just a conventional notation or not because I hardly ever heard any North Americans or so pronounce words that contain that phoneme and cannot have an idea). 〜イヴァンスクルージ九十八[IvanScrooge98]会話 08:45, 6 October 2019 (UTC)

@IvanScrooge98: No variety of English (rhotic or otherwise) contrasts /ɜː/ with /ɜːr/. Nardog's reasoning can be found here. I don't care whether we use /ɜː/ as a marginal phoneme, but I don't see any good reason to do so. An r-ful pronunciation of word-final /ɜːr/ is impossible in truly non-rhotic (meaning: not semi-rhotic) accents of England. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 10:08, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not a fan of using it, but people generally agreed with its limited usage apparently. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 14:14, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
I don’t know, I still think it’s confusing to use it for some rhotic dialects and not for others, as this edit summary recalls from the old discussion. Are we 100% this is not usual in North America? 〜イヴァンスクルージ九十八[IvanScrooge98]会話 15:40, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
My original suggestion was that it be used for American pronunciations as well, as it is frequently seen in CEPD even for US, but it met with opposition on the grounds that it's not attested in descriptive works. Nardog (talk) 16:44, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: isn’t LPD only descriptive though? (Per our recent dispute about Gérard Depardieu.) 〜イヴァンスクルージ九十八[IvanScrooge98]会話 16:54, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
I wouldn't call LPD transcribing Sexwale as /seˈkwɑːleɪ/ descriptive of English speakers. LPD doesn't transcribe the US pronunciation of Depardieu with /ɜː/, at least not explicity. As described in the preface (p. xiv), LPD shows an American pronunciation only when it differs from the British one. So when there are alternatives before "‖", there is ambiguity as to whether they are alternatives in AmE too. Unlike in CEPD, /ɜː/ is never shown explictly as part of an American pronunciation in LPD. Nardog (talk) 17:17, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: I’m sorry, I thought transcriptions such as this, which we cite in the article, are based on pronunciation works (I don’t have LPD physically for the moment, so I still have to rely on the internet). In any case, I think we all agree that even if such sources are not completely descriptive, they don’t prescribe pronunciations that are highly unlikely to be realized. 〜イヴァンスクルージ九十八[IvanScrooge98]会話 17:30, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
The pronunciation in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English is under a different editorship than Wells. One way in which it differs from LPD is the use of double-decker symbols. The theoretical bases of LPD are well documented in its preface, Accents of English, Wells (1990), and his blog, so if he considered /ɜː/ to be part of the vowel system of the American English model we would have known it by now. Nardog (talk) 17:58, 6 October 2019 (UTC)
/ɜː/ and /ɜːr/ may not contrast, but reliable sources show that /ɜːV/ and /ɜːrV/ contrast, as CEPD, LPD, and RDPCE transcribe Auteuil, fauteuil, feuilleton, oeil-de-boeuf, trompe l'oeil, etc. with /ɜːi/ or /ɜːɪ/, as Maczkopeti pointed out in the RfC. Nardog (talk) 16:35, 6 October 2019 (UTC)


Why is [ɹ] transcribed as [r]? JonathanHopeThisIsUnique (talk) 23:16, 4 December 2019 (UTC)

It isn't. Rather, the English phoneme that is pronounced [ɹ] in most accents is transcribed as /r/.
/r/ is the usual phonemic transcription in specialized literature. Moreover, IPA principle 4 (a) stipulates that "[o]rdinary roman letters should be used as far as practicable" (Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, p. 159). Love —LiliCharlie (talk) 23:43, 4 December 2019 (UTC)
@JonathanHopeThisIsUnique: Actually, on English dialect articles (certainly American English dialect ones, following a discussion I had some months ago), [ɹ] is transcribed as [ɹ]. (See examples of that at American English, for example.) However, your concern is one that gets brought up from time to time (or should I say over and over again), most recently, in fact, by myself! See Help talk:IPA/English/Archive 24. So far, editors have agreed to let he English "r" sound be phonemically (which is different than phonetically) represented using /r/. Several editors, including myself, have voiced our reservations about this. Wolfdog (talk) 00:20, 5 December 2019 (UTC)
Hey all, thanks for the quick replies! I just wanted to clarify that I don't have a strong opinion on how to transcribe the English rhotic phoneme, I really was just wondering about the reasoning. :) JonathanHopeThisIsUnique (talk) 01:45, 5 December 2019 (UTC)
The reasoning is WP:RS. If scholars were to create a phonemic orthography for English today, based on General American and contemporary Received Pronunciation, there's a higher probability that ⟨ɹ⟩ would be used instead. /r/ in traditional RP has a wider range of allophones, more like Scottish English. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 08:13, 5 December 2019 (UTC)
Pretty sure the reasoning is readability. It's one fewer symbol to learn by those for whom the IPA is new. It certainly helps that it's common among reliable sources (and those probably do so for the same reason) and that the IPA makes explicit allowances for this practice. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 15:14, 5 December 2019 (UTC)