Phonetic Symbol Guide

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Phonetic Symbol Guide is a book by Geoffrey Pullum and William Ladusaw that explains the histories and uses of the symbols of various phonetic transcription conventions. It was published in 1986, with a second edition in 1996, by the University of Chicago Press. Symbols include letters and diacritics of the International Phonetic Alphabet and Americanist phonetic notation, though not of the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet. The Guide was consulted by the International Phonetic Association when they established names and numerical codes for the International Phonetic Alphabet[1] and was the basis for the characters of the TIPA set of phonetic fonts.

List of symbols[edit]

The TIPA character set covers many of the symbols in the Phonetic Symbol Guide, including some that are not supported by Unicode

The symbols included in the 2nd edition of the Guide are as follows. A number were adopted into Unicode 14 and 15 and have been available in SIL fonts since February 2023. Those not found in Unicode are marked with an asterisk.

a ȧ ä ɐ ɑ α ɒ ɒ̇ ɒ̈ æ æ̇ æ̈ A 4 *[small cap ] Æ *[small cap ] ʌ *[small cap Δ ]
b ƀ ь ъ ɓ ʙ β
c ć ȼ č ç ƈ ɕ ʗ 𝼏 C
d đ 𝼥 ɗ ɖ ȸ ʣ ʤ ð δ D
e ë ę ə ɚ ɘ ᴇ̈ E ɛ ɛ̇ ʚ ɜ ɝ ɞ
f ƒ
ɡ ǥ ɠ g ɢ ʛ G ɣ γ *[palatal-hook γ] *[retroflex-hook γ] ɤ *(and its allograph )
h ƕ ħ ɦ *[right-tail ɦ] ɧ ɥ ʮ ʯ ʜ H
i ï ı ɨ ɪ ɪ̈ I ι ɿ ʅ
j *[hook-top j] ɉ ʝ ǰ ɟ ʄ
k ƙ ʞ 𝼐
l ɫ ƚ ɬ ɭ ɮ *(and its allograph ) ʟ L *[reversed ʟ] λ ƛ
m ɱ *[h-m ligature] ɯ ɰ M
n ń *[left-arm n] π ƞ ñ ɲ ŋ η ɳ ɴ N
o ȯ ö ǫ ƍ σ O ʘ ɵ θ ø 0︀ (and its variant ) ɸ œ ɶ 8
ɔ ɔ̇ ɔ̈ *[turned ] ω ω̇ ω̈ *[turned ω] ɷ ꭥ̇ ꭥ̈ ꭥ̶
p ƥ *[straight allograph of ƍ ] P ρ ƿ þ
q ʠ ȹ
r ɾ ɼ ɽ ɹ ɻ ɺ ʀ R ʁ
s S š ʂ ʃ 𝼋 ƪ ʆ 𝼌
t ŧ 𝼪 ƫ ʈ ƭ ʇ 𝼍 ʦ ʧ
u ü ʉ *[half-barred u] ʊ ᴜ̇ *[small cap ] U
v ʋ
w ◌̫ ʍ
x X χ
y ÿ ʎ ʏ
z ȥ ž ʑ ʐ ƻ ʒ ǯ ƺ ʓ ƹ
ʔ ? 7 ʡ ʖ ƾ 𝼎 ʕ 9 ʢ
ǃ ǀ / ǂ ǁ # & *
Chao tone letters: ˩ ˨ ˧ ˦ ˥ etc.
IPA tone diacritics: ◌́ ◌̄ ◌̀ ◌̌ ◌̂ ◌᷉ etc.
◌̄ ˉ ˗ ◌̠ ˍ + ◌̟ ◌̽ ˭
◌̪ ◌̺ ◌̻ ◌̝ ˔ ◌̞ ˕ ◌꭪ ◌꭫
ˈ ˌ ◌̩ ◌̚
˂ ˃ ◌͕ ⃖ (superscript )
◌̇ . ˑ ◌̣ ◌̈ ◌̤ ː
ʼ ʽ ʻ ,
◌̊ ◌̥ ◌̜ ˒ ◌̹
◌̃ ◌̴ ◌̰ ◌̼
◌́ ˊ ◌̀ ˋ ◌̂ ◌̭ ◌̌ ◌̬
◌̨ ◌̧ ◌̡ ◌˞ ◌̢
◌̆ ◌̑ ◌̯ ◌͡◌ ◌͜◌

Non-trivial Unicode support[edit]

Not all Unicode support is direct. Some typewriter substitutions made by overstriking a Latin letter with a virgule require composite encoding:

Similarly ꭥ̶, an unused proposal to replace Americanist ꭥ̇.

The 'baby gamma' variant of the vowel letter ɤ is available as a character variant in fonts such as Gentium and Andika.

Several other symbols are graphic variants of Unicode characters:

  • p with a tail facing left ( ɋ) and reversed o with ogonek (ǫ). The first is an allograph in Doke of ƍ (turned delta δ), and the latter a misanalysis by the Guide of the same letter.
  • double virgule ⫽, a close-kerned // or italicized ǁ, is an allograph of ⟨ǁ⟩. It might be adequately rendered with U+2AFD DOUBLE SOLIDUS OPERATOR.
  • triple virgule ⫻, a close-kerned /// or italicized ⦀, used in a passing mention of retroflex clicks in the Cole article "Bushman Languages" in the 1966 Encyclopædia Britannica (4: 469). The symbol was removed from later editions. It might be adequately rendered with U+2AFB TRIPLE SOLIDUS BINARY RELATION. This is an allograph of a triple pipe, for which Unicode recommends using character U+2980 TRIPLE VERTICAL BAR DELIMITER ⟨⦀⟩.

A couple are more distinct graphically, but without a corresponding semantic distinction:

  • superscript spacing diacritic , used to indicate clicks in Smalley (1963). This is similar to the subscript arrow U+02FF (˿) used to indicate clicks in the same way in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet. It could be encoded as a space plus U+20D6: ⟨ ⃖⟩, though substituting a combining modifier for a spacing modifier like this is deprecated by Unicode, as it can cause complications.
  • hooktop j, an Americanist variant of ʄ in Smalley (1963) Manual of Articulatory Phonetics. Unlike ʄ, in the Smalley letter the hook connects to the dot of the jay and so is detached from the body of the letter.

Rare symbols[edit]

The following are not supported by Unicode as of version 15.[2]

Some of the symbols are idiosyncratic proposals by well-known scholars that never caught on:

Ef, thorn, and right-tail hooktop h
  • a right-tail hooktop h (fusion of ɦ and ɳ : ), found for the velar fricative in the Germanic 'fortis' voiceless spirant series f þ ɦɳ, contrasting with the voiced series ƀ ð and the Indo-European 'lenis' spirants ɸ θ χ in Prokosch (1939) A Comparative Germanic Grammar. (See esp. p. 51.) Prokosch describes the symbol as a "modified h, since h is the usual spelling in all Germanic languages" (p. 83), though other authors simply write these sounds f þ h.

A couple symbols were mentioned in the 1949 Principles of the International Phonetic Association as recent suggestions for further improvement and were never adopted:

The h-m ligature for [m̥]
  • h-m ligature, approx. hm or ɰ (turned ɰ) for [m̥]
  • turned small capital U, U, for a generic vowel; now ⟨V⟩ is generally used.

The majority of the non-Unicode symbols were proposed by George Trager to improve the Bloch & Trager system of vowel transcription and other conventions of Americanist notation, but were never adopted:

  • inverted (turned) small capital ᴀ () to replace æ̇; this had been the original IPA form of the letter that is now ɤ.
The small-cap A-O ligature for [ɶ]
  • small capital ligature (looks like an A-D ligature) to replace ɒ̈
  • small capital Δ to replace ᴇ̈
  • barred ɔ, (turned ) to replace ɔ̇
  • inverted (turned) ω, ω, to replace ω̇
  • u with a bar on the left leg, u- , to replace
The proposed letter for a dental nasal
  • a fusion of + n (n with the arm of ᴛ to the left, approx. n ) for the dental nasal [n̯]. It is similar in shape to U+1DF27 𝼧 LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH MID-HEIGHT LEFT HOOK in Unicode 15, though with a flat left arm.
  • a reversed small capital L, ʟ (turned or small-cap ⅃), for a labial lateral approximant; this is not a distinctive sound and the symbol was never used. However, it would potentially be used for an extIPA velodorsal lateral.

A couple have seen use in Slavic sources:

  • gamma with a palatal tail turning left, approx. γ̡, to replace γ̯
  • gamma with a retroflex tail turning right, approx. γ̢, to replace γ̣


  1. ^ Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, 1999, p. 31, 161.
  2. ^ Updated from Phonetic Symbol Guide at ScriptSource ( was added to Unicode 11 as U+A7B9); additions in U14 and U15 are listed above.