Obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet

Obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) possess 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. Sinologists 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.

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.

Symbol or
Name Value IPA
? question mark glottal stop [ʔ]
ƍ turned small delta labialized voiced alveolo-dental fricative [ðʷ, zʷ]
σ small sigma labialized voiceless alveolo-dental fricative [θʷ, sʷ]
ƺ ezh with tail labialized voiced postalveolar fricative [ʒʷ]
ƪ reversed esh with top loop labialized voiceless postalveolar fricative [ʃʷ]
ƻ barred two voiced alveolar affricate [d͡z] withdrawn 1976
ƾ rotated epiglottal plosive voiceless alveolar affricate [t͡s] withdrawn 1976
ƞ right-leg N syllabic n [n̩] withdrawn 1976
ƫ left-hook T palatalized t [tʲ] withdrawn 1989
ʓ curly-tail ezh voiced alveolo-palatal(ized) fricative [ʒʲ] or [ʑ] withdrawn 1989
ʆ curly-tail esh voiceless alveolo-palatal(ized) fricative [ʃʲ] or [ɕ] withdrawn 1989
λ lambda voiced alveolar lateral affricate [d͡ɮ] Used by Americanists
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, Slavicists
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
ᵻ / ᵿ barred small capital I / upsilon near-close central unrounded / rounded vowel [ɨ̞ / ʉ̞] used by the OED among others
Ǝ small capital turned E close-mid near-back unrounded vowel [ɤ̘] used by some Koreanologists who study Gyeongsang dialect, where there is no phonemic differentiation between /ʌ/ (RR eo; Hangul ㅓ) and /ɯ/ (RR eu; Hangul ㅡ).[citation needed]
ʚ closed epsilon open-mid central rounded vowel [ɞ] a misprint of ɞ
ɷ closed omega near-close near-back rounded vowel [ʊ] rejected 1989
ω omega near-close near-back unrounded vowel [ʊ̜] Made by analogy to ɜ and ɞ from ɷ or ʊ symbol.
ı dotless small i near-close near-front unrounded vowel [ɪ] a mistake
ȹ ȸ voiceless and voiced labiodental plosive [p̪ b̪] used in Africanist linguistics
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] withdrawn in 1993
ʇ turned T dental click [ǀ] superseded 1989
ʗ stretched C alveolar click [ǃ] superseded 1989
ʖ inverted glottal stop alveolar lateral click [ǁ] superseded 1989
ʞ turned K velar click Proposed symbol withdrawn 1970; articulation judged impossible[1]
ɩ small iota near-close near-front unrounded vowel [ɪ] rejected 1989
ɼ long-leg R voiced strident apico-alveolar trill (Czech ř) [r̝] withdrawn 1989
Looptail g.svg looptail g voiced velar plosive [ɡ] The standard Unicode Basic Latin/ASCII lower-case g (U+0067) may have a "looptail g" glyph; the preferred IPA "open-tail g" (U+0261) is in the IPA Extensions Unicode block
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]
ɿ reversed fishhook R / turned iota apical dental unrounded vowel [z̩] used by Sinologists, and by Japanologists studying the phonology of the Miyako language
ʅ squat reversed esh (actually ɿ with retroflex tail) apical retroflex unrounded vowel [ʐ̩] used by Sinologists. See Chinese vowels
ʮ turned h with fishhook apical dental rounded vowel [z̩ʷ] used by Sinologists
ʯ turned h with fishhook and tail apical retroflex rounded vowel [ʐ̩ʷ] used by Sinologists
small capital A open central vowel any of [ä a̱ ɑ̈ ɑ̞ ɐ̞] used by Sinologists
small capital A open back unrounded vowel [ɑ] superseded 1900
small capital E mid front unrounded vowel [e̞] or [ɛ̝] used by Sinologists and some Koreanologists
G R Œ etc. uppercase letters [ɢ ʀ ɶ] etc. Uppercase alternatives to symbols shaped like small capitals
Q small capital Q gemination [kk tt] or [kː tː] etc. Used in Japanese phonology to represent the Sokuon.
   belted Voiceless lateral fricatives (retroflex, palatal and velar) [ɭ̥̝ ʎ̥̝ ʟ̥̝]
ɑ̢ etc. underdot ("retroflex" or r-colored vowels) [ɑ˞] etc.
ȡ ȶ ȵ ȴ etc. or d̂ t̂ n̂ l̂ etc. curl or circumflex alveolo-palatal [d̠ʲ t̠ʲ n̠ʲ l̠ʲ] used by Sinologists
k', etc. no audible release [k̚], etc. Withdrawn
d̡ t̡ etc. subscript left hook palatalization [dʲ tʲ] etc. superseded 1989
etc. subscript w labialization [kʷ] etc. superseded 1989
K P T etc. uppercase letters (not small capitals) fortis [k͈ p͈ t͈], etc. used by some Koreanologists
ɔ̗ / ɔ̖ etc. lower-pitched rising / falling tone contour In a language which distinguishes more than one rising or falling tone.
k‘ t‘ or kʻ tʻ left quote or reversed comma "weak" (or 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. or [t͡s d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ] etc. Formerly an acceptable variant[2]
[p′] etc. prime palatalization [pʲ] etc. Traditional in accounts of Irish phonology

The table below shows official IPA symbols not used as the original definition of IPA.

c It is sometimes used as [t͡s], [t͡ʃ] or [t͡ɕ].
j It is sometimes used as [d͡ʒ] or [d͡ʑ].
y It is sometimes used as [j].
ä It is sometimes used as [ɛ] or [æ].
ö It is sometimes used as [ø] or [œ].
ü It is sometimes used as [y] or [ʏ].
r It is frequently used as one of rhotic sounds (including R-colored vowels) or of liquid sounds especially in phonological transcriptions.
l It is usually used as one of liquid sounds especially in phonological descriptions.
a It is frequently used as alternative for [ɑ] in printing when the distinction between [a] and [ɑ] is not used.
ɑ It is frequently used as alternative for [a] in handwriting when the distinction between [a] and [ɑ] is not used.
k’ etc. Fortis sounds in Korean used by some Koreanologists. = [k*], etc. above.
ʃ ʒ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ They are sometimes used as alternative for [ɕ], [ʑ], [t͡ɕ] and [d͡ʑ] respectively especially by some Japanologists and Koreanologists.
ɲ ʎ They are sometimes used as alternative for the unofficial symbols [ȵ] and [ȴ] respectively especially by some Japanologists and Koreanologists.
ʀ Chōon in Japanese especially used in some phonologic transcriptions.


  1. ^ An impossible sound
  2. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey K.; William A. Ladusaw (1996). Phonetic Symbol Guide (2nd edition ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 180. ISBN 0-226-68535-7. 

See also

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