The International Phonetic Alphabet
in black print and in braille

16 January 2001
[ Work in no progress! ]


Basic consonants (pulmonic)

Some part of the mouth prevents air from the lungs to go through freely. There are a few ways to do so. They are listed in decreasing order of strength.


Air is blocked and suddenly released under pressure.

The list starts with the front-most part of the mouth and goes on toward the back. Often we insist on whether the vocal cords are open (voiceless consonant) or vibrate like for a vowel (voiced consonant).

Bilabial voiceless:   lowercase p  dots 1234 
voiced:   lowercase b  dots 12 
Dental or
voiceless:   lowercase t  dots 2345 
voiced:   lowercase d  dots 145 
Retroflex voiceless:   t right-tail  dots 256-2345 
voiced:   d right-tail  dots 256-145 
Palatal voiceless:   lowercase c  dots 235-14 
voiced:   uppercase j lowered and barred  dots 235-245 
Velar voiceless:   lowercase k  dots 13 
voiced:   lowercase g  dots 1245 
Uvular voiceless:   lowercase q  dots 12345  (Arabic)
voiced:   small cap g  dots 35-1245  (Eskimo)
Glottal:   footed question mark  dots 23  glottal stop (African languages, Arabic alif, Hawaiian; also heard but not essential in European languages)


Bilabial:   lowercase m  dots 134 
Labiodental:   m hooked right leg  dots 235-134 
Alveolar or
lowercase n  dots 1345 
Retroflex:   n right-tail  dots 256-1345 
Palatal:   n hooked left leg  dots 123456  (Spanish ñ, French gn, ...)
Velar:   n hooked right leg  dots 1246  (heard at the end of ginseng or camping)
Uvular:   small cap n  dots 35-1345 


Bilabial:   small cap b 
Alveolar or
lowercase r  dots 1235  (Spanish, ...)
Uvular:   small cap r  dots 35-1235 

Taps or Flaps

Alveolar or
r-like hook  dots 235-1235  (trilled r shortened to only one flap)
Retroflex:   r right-tail  dots 256-1235 


Air is continuously released between parts of the mouth that almost touch each other.

Bilabial voiceless:   lowercase round phi (like an uppercase phi)  dots 235-1234 
voiced:   lowercase beta  dots 235-12  (Spanish b and v after letters other than m and n)
Labiodental voiceless:   lowercase f  dots 124 
voiced:   lowercase v  dots 1236 
Dental voiceless:   lowercase theta  dots 1456 
voiced:   eth (old d barred)  dots 12456 
Alveolar voiceless:   lowercase s  dots 234 
voiced:   lowercase z  dots 1356 
Postalveolar voiceless:   stretched s  dots 156  esh
voiced:   yogh (like a script g or z)  dots 2346 
Retroflex voiceless:   s right-tail  dots 256-234 
voiced:   z right-tail  dots 256-1356 
Palatal voiceless:   c cedilla 
voiced:   j curly-tail 
Velar voiceless:   lowercase x  dots 1346  (Spanish j ge, German ch, Slovak ch, ...)
voiced:   v curly-cross (gamma-like v)  dots 235-1245 
Labial-velar voiceless:   w turned  dots 235-2456 
Uvular voiceless:   lowercase chi  dots 35-1346 
voiced:   small cap r turned  dots 35-3456 
Pharyngeal voiceless:   h barred  dots 235-125 
voiced:   reversed footed question mark  dots 235-23 
Glottal voiceless:   lowercase h  dots 125 
voiced:   h hooktop  dots 236-125 

Lateral fricatives

Dental or
voiceless:   l belted  dots 35-123 
voiced:   l-yogh ligature  dots 236-123 

Lateral approximants

Dental or
lowercase l  dots 123 
Retroflex:   l right-tail  dots 256-123  (Norwegian, Manza, Iaai)
Palatal:   y turned (or reversed lambda)  dots 12346  (Spanish ll, Italien gli, Slovak)
Velar:   small cap l 

Voiced median approximants, semivowels

Labiodental:   upsilon lowercase  dots 236-1236 
Alveolar or
r turned  dots 3456  (English semi-r)
Retroflex:   r turned right-tail  dots 256-3456
Palatal:   lowercase j  dots 245 
Labial-palatal:   h turned (u long right leg)  dots 23456 
Velar:   h-like m turned 
Labial-velar:   lowercase w  dots 2456 

Non-pulmonic consonants and further double articulations


Air is sucked in thanks to the back of the tongue against the soft palate. A front part of the mouth makes the sound.

Bilabial:   (centre-dotted circle)  like a European hasty kiss (Bushmen)
Dental:   vertical bar  dots 256  like an interjection expressing annoyance - or banning when doubled (Zulu c, Bushmen, Hottentot)
or Retroflex:  
exclamation mark  the tip of the tongue is used (Bushmen, Hottentot)
Palatoalveolar:   double-barred vertical bar  dots 256  the middle of the tongue is used (Zulu q, Bushmen, Hottentot, Sotho)
Alveolar lateral:   double vertical bar  dots 256  like an interjection meaning 'classy!' or calling a horse - or someone coarsely (Zulu x, Bushmen, Hottentot)

Voiced implosives

Air is sucked in with the glottis loosely closed and the larynx lowered.

Bilabial:   b hooktop  dots 236-12 
Dental or
d hooktop  dots 236-145 
Palatal:   f turned hooktop 
Velar:   g hooktop 
Uvular:   small cap g hooktop 


It is like combining a consonant - usually a voiceless plosive or fricative - with a simultaneous glottal stop. The air pressure is produced with the glottis closed and the larynx raised.

Bilabial:   papostrophe  dots 1234-6-3 
Dental or
tapostrophe  dots 2345-6-3 
Velar:   kapostrophe  dots 13-6-3 
Alveolar fricative:   sapostrophe  dots 234-6-3 

Further double articulations


Basic vowels


Close spread:   lowercase i  dots 24 
rounded:   lowercase y  dots 13456 
Close-mid spread:   lowercase e  dots 15 
rounded:   o slashed  dots 1256 
Open-mid spread:   lowercase epsilon  dots 345 
rounded:   o-e ligature  dots 246 
Almost open spread:   a-e ligature  dots 146 
Open unrounded:   lowercase a  dot 1 
rounded:   small cap o-e ligature 

Almost front

Almost close spread:   small cap i  dots 34 
rounded:   small cap y  dots 235-13456 


Close spread:   i barred  dots 356-24 
rounded:   u barred  dots 356-136 
Close-mid unrounded:   reversed e 
rounded:   o barred  dots 356-135 
Neutral unrounded:   e turned  dots 26  Schwa (the mouth is relaxed and depends on the surrounding sounds)
Open-mid unrounded:   reversed lowercase epsilon  dots 235-345 
rounded:   reversed closed epsilon 
Almost open unrounded:   a turned  dots 235-1 

Almost back

Almost close rounded:   small cap omega turned  dots 12356 


Close unrounded:   m turned (like a double u)  dots 235-136 
rounded:   lowercase u  dots 136 
Close-mid unrounded:   baby gamma  dots 235-135  (Vietnamese, Bafia)
rounded:   lowercase o  dots 135 
Open-mid unrounded:   v turned  dots 346 
rounded:   c turned  dots 126 
Open unrounded:   script a  dots 16 
rounded:   script a turned  dots 235-16 


Voiceless:   subscript ring  dots 35-36before the letter 
Voiced:   subscript wedge  dots 236-36before the letter 
Aspirated:   superscript h  the letter followed bydot 2-125  a brief voiceless breath going out - a weaker form of the plain h.
Breathy voiced:   subscript two dots 
Creaky voiced:   subscript tilde 
More round:   subscript right half-ring  dots 2356-36before the letter 
Less round:   subscript left half-ring  dots 236-36before the letter 
Centralized:   dieresis (superscript two dots)  dots 356-36before the letter 
Raised:   subscript up tack (like a small cap t turned)  the letter followed bydots 36-236 
Lowered:   subscript down tack  the letter followed bydots 36-25 
Advanced tongue root:   subscript left tack 
Retracted tongue root:   subscript right tack 
Syllabic:   subscript vertical bar  dots 56before the letter  for consonants
Non-syllabic:   subscript round arch  dots 56before the letter  for vowels
Nasalized:   tilde  dots 256before the letter 
Dental:   subscript square arch  dots 256-36before the letter 
Apical:   subscript square arch turned 
Laminal:   subscript rectangle 
Palatalized:   superscript j  dots 356before the letter 
Velarized or pharyngealized:   middle tilde  dots 2356before the letter 

Rhythm and melody


Stress:   long apostrophebeforea syllable  dots 45beforea syllable 
Secondary stress:   long commabeforea syllable  dot 4beforea syllable 


Long:   triangular colon after the letter  the letter followed bydots 25 
Half-long:   upper half triangular colon after the letter  the letter followed bydot 3 
Extra-short:   superscript round arch turned  dots 56before the letter  (like the non-syllabic modifier for a vowel)



This is about pitch.

High level:   high horizontal bar  dots 25-2 
Low level:   low horizontal bar  dots 256-2 
High rising:   high bar going up right  dots 26-2 
High falling:   high bar going down right  dots 2356-2 
Low rising:   low bar going up right  dots 235-2 
Low falling:   low bar going down right  dots 236-2 
Rising-falling:   high bar going up then down again  dots 35-2 
Falling-rising:   high bar going down then up again  dots 356-2 

Layout and other concerns about notation

Aspirated consonants are sometimes written with a reversed apostrophe in black. Merrick and Potthoff also suggested a short braille notation - dots 36 - to imitate it. These black and braille notations agree on being confusingly close to other notations. I would rather use the superscript letter h - as I put it in the tables in harmony with the notation for shades.

To be continued...


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