Obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet

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The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) possesses a variety of obsolete and nonstandard symbols. Throughout the history of the IPA, characters representing phonetic values have been modified or completely replaced. An example is ɷ for standard [ʊ]. Several symbols indicating secondary articulation have been dropped altogether, with the idea that such things should be indicated with diacritics: ʮ for z̩ʷ is one. In addition, the rare voiceless implosive series ƥ ƭ ƈ ƙ ʠ has been dropped.

Other characters have been added in for specific phonemes which do not possess a specific symbol in the IPA. Those studying modern Chinese phonology have used ɿ to represent [z̩], a vowel which represents the i in hanzi (see Pinyin).

There are also unsupported symbols from local traditions that find their way into publications that otherwise use the standard IPA. This is especially common with affricates such as ƛ, and many Americanist symbols.

While the IPA does not itself have a set of capital letters (the ones that look like capitals are actually small capitals), many languages have adopted symbols from the IPA as part of their orthographies, and in such cases they have invented capital variants of these. This is especially common in Africa. An example is Kabiyé of northern Togo, which has Ɔ Ɛ Ŋ Ɣ Ʃ (capital ʃ). Other pseudo-IPA capitals supported by Unicode are Ɓ/Ƃ Ƈ Ɗ/Ƌ Ə/Ǝ Ɠ Ħ Ɯ Ɲ Ɵ Ʈ Ʊ Ʋ Ʒ. (See Case variants of IPA letters.)

Capital letters are also used as cover symbols in phonotactic descriptions: C=Consonant, V=Vowel, etc.

This list does not include commonplace extensions of the IPA, such as doubling a symbol for a greater degree of a feature ([aːː] extra-long [a], [ˈˈa] extra stress, [kʰʰ] strongly aspirated [k], and [a˞˞] extra-rhotic [a]), nor superscripting for a lesser degree of a feature ([ᵑɡ] slightly prenasalized [ɡ], [ᵗs] slightly affricated [s], and [ᵊ] epenthetic schwa). The asterisk, as in [k*] for the fortis stop of Korean, is the convention the IPA uses when it has no symbol for a phone or feature.

For symbols and values which were discarded by 1932, see History of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Obsolete and/or nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet
Symbol or
Name Meaning Standard IPA
? question mark glottal stop ʔ typewriter substitution
7 digit seven
ƍ turned small delta a voiced "labialized" alveolar or dental fricative ðʷ, zʷ, z͎ Intended for the voiced whistled sibilant, ɀ, of Shona and related languages[1]
σ small sigma a voiceless "labialized" alveolar or dental fricative θʷ, sʷ, s͎ Intended for the voiceless whistled sibilant, ȿ, of Shona and related languages[1]
ƺ ezh with tail labialized voiced postalveolar fricative ʒʷ, ʑᶣ Intended for w before front vowels in Twi;[1] may also be used for the lightly rounded English /ʒ/.
ƪ reversed esh with top loop labialized voiceless postalveolar fricative ʃʷ, ɕᶣ Intended for hw before front vowels in Twi;[1] may also be used for the lightly rounded English /ʃ/.
ƻ barred two voiced alveolar affricate d͡z withdrawn 1976
ƾ rotated epiglottal plosive (actually a vertical ts ligature) voiceless alveolar affricate t͡s withdrawn 1976
ƞ right-leg N (Latin eta) moraic ("syllabic") nasal m, n, ŋ Intended for the moraic nasal /N/ of Japanese.[1] withdrawn 1976
ᶀ ᶁ ᶂ ᶃ ᶄ ᶅ ᶆ ᶇ
ᶈ ᶉ ᶊ ᶋ ƫ ᶌ ᶍ ᶎ
letters with left hook palatalization bʲ dʲ fʲ ɡ̟ k̟ lʲ mʲ nʲ
pʲ rʲ sʲ ʃʲ tʲ vʲ x̟ zʲ
Typically used in the transcription of Slavic languages such as Russian. superseded 1989
Looptail g.svg double-loop g voiced velar plosive ɡ The standard Unicode Basic Latin/ASCII lower-case g (U+0067) may have a double-loop g glyph. The preferred IPA single-loop g (U+0261) is in the IPA Extensions Unicode block. For a time it was proposed that the double-loop g might be used for [ɡ] and the single-loop g for [ᶃ] (ɡ̟),[1] but the distinction never caught on.
etc. subscript w labialization etc. Diacritic may appear above letters with descenders such as [ɡ] and [ŋ]. superseded 1989
ʓ curly-tail ezh voiced alveolo-palatal(ized) fricative ʑ (ʒʲ) Irregular, instead of ʒ with a tail. withdrawn 1989
ʆ curly-tail esh voiceless alveolo-palatal(ized) fricative ɕ (ʃʲ) Irregular, instead of ʃ with a tail. Used for Russian щ. withdrawn 1989
ɼ long-leg R voiced strident apico-alveolar trill Intended for ř in Czech and related languages. withdrawn 1989
λ lambda voiced alveolar lateral affricate d͡ɮ Used by Americanists. But see d͡ɮ.
ƛ lambda bar voiceless alveolar lateral affricate t͡ɬ Used by Americanists
ł l bar voiceless alveolar lateral fricative ɬ Used by Americanists
š č ž s c z with caron postalveolars ʃ t͡ʃ ʒ Used by Americanists, Uralicists, Semiticists
ǰ, ǧ, ǯ j, g, ezh with caron voiced postalveolar affricate d͡ʒ Used by Americanists, Slavicists etc.
x with dot voiceless uvular fricative χ Used by Americanists
Baby gamma.svg baby gamma close-mid back unrounded vowel ɤ rejected 1989; Unicode LATIN SMALL LETTER RAMS HORN (U+0264) represents either glyph
ρ Greek rho bilabial trill ʙ in common use before an official letter was adopted
ᵻ / ᵿ barred small capital I / upsilon near-close central unrounded / rounded vowel ɨ̞ / ʉ̞ used by the OED among others
ʚ closed epsilon open-mid central rounded vowel ɞ a misprint of ɞ corrected 1996
ɷ closed omega near-close near-back rounded vowel ʊ Longstanding duplicate symbol; rejected 1989
ω omega near-close near-back unrounded vowel ʊ̜ or ɯ̽ Bloch & Trager (1942) for [ɒ̝].
ɩ small iota near-close near-front unrounded vowel ɪ Longstanding duplicate symbol; rejected 1989
ı dotless small i near-close near-front unrounded vowel ɪ mistake or typographic substitute
ȹ ȸ voiceless and voiced labiodental plosive p̪ b̪ used by Africanists
or Ø slashed 0 or uppercase slashed O null initial Usually used in phonology to mean "no sound values". However, in Chinese linguistics, some scholars considered it as "weak" glottal stop or something similar as sound value of the "existent" first consonant of syllables started by a vowel (e.g. ān in Tiān'ānmén), and this opinion can be connected with ㅇ (ieung) in hangul. can be confusing with close-mid front rounded vowel [ø].
ƥ ƭ ƈ ƙ ʠ hooktop P, T, C, K, Q voiceless implosives ɓ̥ ɗ̥ ʄ̊ ɠ̊ ʛ̊ Short-term additions to the IPA; withdrawn 1993
ʇ turned T dental click ǀ superseded 1989; see click letters
ʗ stretched C alveolar click ǃ superseded 1989; see click letters
ʖ inverted glottal stop alveolar lateral click ǁ superseded 1989; see click letters
ʞ turned K velar click Proposed symbol withdrawn 1970; articulation judged impossible[2] but later reanalyzed and found paralinguistically. For several years used for a voiceless velodorsal stop in the extIPA.
ȣ ou close-mid back unrounded vowel or voiced velar fricative ɤ or ɣ a mistake in either case
я reversed ʀ or Cyrillic ya voiced epiglottal trill ʀ̠ or ʢ rare
ɿ reversed fishhook R / turned iota high back unrounded vowel, with frication from the preceding consonant  ͡ɯ[3] used by Sinologists, and by Japanologists studying the phonology of the Miyako language
ʅ squat reversed esh (actually ɿ with retroflex tail) high central unrounded vowel, with frication from the preceding consonant  ͡ɨ[3] used by Sinologists. See Chinese vowels
ʮ turned h with fishhook high back rounded vowel, with frication from the preceding consonant  ͡u used by Sinologists
ʯ turned h with fishhook and tail high central rounded vowel, with frication from the preceding consonant  ͡ʉ used by Sinologists
small capital A open central vowel ä, a̱, ɑ̈, ɑ̟, ɐ̞ used by Sinologists
small capital A open back unrounded vowel ɑ superseded 1900
small capital E mid front unrounded vowel e̞, ɛ̝ Bloch & Trager (1942). Used by Sinologists and some Koreanists
small capital turned E close-mid near-back unrounded vowel ɤ̘ used by some Koreanists who study Gyeongsang dialect, where there is no phonemic differentiation between /ʌ/ (RR eo; Hangul ㅓ) and /ɯ/ (RR eu; Hangul ㅡ).[citation needed]
small capital Ω mid back rounded vowel o̞, ɔ̝ Bloch & Trager (1942)
small capital U near-close near-back rounded vowel ʊ, ʊ̹ Americanist notation
G R Œ etc. uppercase letters ɢ ʀ ɶ etc. Uppercase alternatives to symbols shaped like small capitals
Q small capital Q ʡ Proposed for the pharyngeal stop of Formosan languages.
ꞎ   belted Voiceless lateral fricatives (retroflex, palatal and velar) ɭ̥˔ ʎ̥˔ ʟ̥˔ now in the extIPA[citation needed]
Retroflex lateral flap ɭ̆
ɑ̢ etc. underdot ("retroflex" or r-colored vowels) ɑ˞ etc.
ȡ ȶ ȵ ȴ etc.,
d̂ t̂ n̂ l̂ etc.
curl or circumflex alveolo-palatal d̠ʲ t̠ʲ n̠ʲ l̠ʲ etc. used by Sinologists
k', etc. no audible release , etc. Withdrawn
K P T etc. uppercase letters (not small capitals) fortis k͈ p͈ t͈, etc. used by some Koreanists
ɔ̗ / ɔ̖ etc. lower-pitched rising / falling tone contour In a language which distinguishes more than one rising or falling tone.
k‘ t‘, kʻ tʻ left quote or reversed comma "weak" (sometimes "normal") aspiration k t (sometimes kʰ tʰ) First symbol may be left single quotation mark (U+2018) or modifier letter apostrophe (U+02BC); second symbol may be single high-reversed-9 quotation mark (U+201B) or modifier letter reversed comma (U+02BD)
ʦ ʣ ʧ ʤ etc. ligatures affricates ts dz tʃ dʒ etc., t͡s d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ etc. Formerly an acceptable variant[4]
p′ etc. prime palatalization etc. Traditional in accounts of Irish phonology
* asterisk syntactic gemination none Used in some Italian dictionaries
˹ open corner release/burst (none) IPA number 490
c or ȼ [t͡s] Americanist notation
ʒ [d͡z] Americanist notation
y [j] Americanist notation
ä [ɛ] or [æ] Uralicist notation
ö [ø] Americanist and Uralicist notation
ü [y] Americanist and Uralicist notation
k’ etc. Used by some Koreanists for fortis sounds; equivalent to ⟨k*⟩, etc. above.
◌⸋ box unreleased ◌̚ used where IPA ◌̚ would get confused with the corners used to indicate change of pitch in the Japanese pitch accent system
ˉ◌, ˗◌, ˍ◌ high, mid and low-level tone or intonation superseded is a placeholder
˭◌, ₌◌ extra-high and extra-low level tone or intonation superseded
ˋ◌, ˴◌, ˎ◌ falling or high falling, mid falling and low-falling tone or intonation superseded
ˊ◌, ˏ◌ (high) rising and low rising tone or intonation superseded
ˇ◌, ˬ◌ (high) dipping and low dipping (falling-rising) tone or intonation superseded
ˆ◌ peaking (rising-falling) tone or intonation superseded
˙◌, ·◌, .◌ atonic syllable with high, mid and low pitch superseded

The table below shows examples of expansion in the meaning of IPA symbols in broad transcription.

c [t͡ʃ] or [t͡ɕ].
ɟ [d͡ʒ] or [d͡ʑ].
r Frequently used for any rhotic sound (including R-colored vowels), especially in phonological transcriptions.
a Often a substitute for ɑ in printing when the distinction between [a] and [ɑ] is not needed.
ɑ Often a substitute for a in handwriting when the distinction between [a] and [ɑ] is not needed.
ʃ ʒ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ ɕ, ʑ, t͡ɕ, and d͡ʑ respectively, especially by some Japanologists and Koreanists.


  1. ^ a b c d e f 1949 Principles of the IPA
  2. ^ An impossible sound
  3. ^ a b That is, shi and si would be narrowly transcribed [ʂ͡ɨ] and [s͡ɯ].
    Kwan-hin Cheung, 1992. "北京話 '知' '資' 二韻國際音標寫法商榷" [IPA transcription of the so-called 'apical vowels' in Pekinese], in T. Lee, ed., Research on Chinese Linguistics in Hong Kong, Linguistic Society of Hong Kong.
  4. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey K.; William A. Ladusaw (1996). Phonetic Symbol Guide (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 180. ISBN 0-226-68535-7. 

See also[edit]