2.4 IPA symbols and speech sounds

The following tables give you some sample words so you can start to learn which IPA symbols correspond to which speech sounds. In these tables, the portion of the English word that makes the relevant sound is indicated in boldface type, but remember that English spelling is not always consistent, and your pronunciation of a word might be a little different from someone else’s. These examples are drawn from the pronunciation of mainstream Canadian English. To hear an audio-recording of the sound for each IPA symbol, consult the consonant, vowel, and diphthong charts available here.

The sounds are categorized here according to how they’re produced. You’ll learn more about these categories in units 2.6, 2.7 and 3.2.

Stops

[p] peach, apple, cap
[b] bill, above, rib
[t] tall, internal, light
[d] dill, adore, kid
[k] cave, ticket, luck
[ɡ] give, baggage, dig

Fricatives

[f] phone, raffle, leaf
[v] video, lively, love
[θ] thin, author, bath
[ð] there, leather, breathe
[s] celery, passing, bus
[z] zebra, deposit, shoes
[ʃ] shell, ocean, rush
[ʒ] genre, measure, rouge
[h] hill, ahead

 

Affricates

[tʃ] chip, achieve, ditch
[dʒ] jump, adjoin, bridge

Nasals

[m] mill, hammer, broom
[n] nickel, sunny, spoon
[ŋ] singer, wrong

Approximants

[l] lamb, silly, fall
[ɹ] robot, furry, star
[j] yellow, royal
[w] winter, flower

Flap

[ɾ] butter, pedal (only between vowels when the second syllable is unstressed)

Front Vowels

[i] see, neat, piece
[ɪ] pin, bit, lick
[e] say, place, rain
(in spoken Canadian English, [e] becomes [eɪ])
[ɛ] ten, said, bread
[æ] mad, cat, fan
[a] far, start

Back Vowels

[u] pool, blue
[ʊ] look, good, bush
[o] throw, hole, toe
(in spoken Canadian English, [o] becomes [oʊ])
[ʌ] bus, mud, lunch
[ɔ] store, more, corn
[ɑ] dog, ball, father

Central Vowels

[ə] believe, cinnamon, surround
(in an unstressed syllable)
[ɨ] roses, wanted
(in an unstressed syllable that is a suffix)
[ɚ] weather, editor
(in an unstressed syllable with an r-quality)
[ɝ] bird, fur
(in a stressed syllable with an r-quality)

Diphthongs

[aɪ] fly, lie, smile
[aʊ] now, frown, loud
[ɔɪ] boy, spoil, noise
[ju] cue, few

License

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2.4 IPA symbols and speech sounds by Catherine Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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