Parsing IPA Transcriptions

Phonetic transcriptions - data entered into IPA Targetr and IPA Actual tiers - are parsed into discreet units, or IPA elements. Each IPA element constitutes either a timing unit or annotation within the transcription. The following IPA Elements are identified by Phon. All characters available in Phon may be accessed using the IPA Map.

IPA Elements


Phones are the main unit of an IPA transcription. They are composed of a vowel or consonant (or base glyph) along with optional diacritics. Diacritics are of the following types: prefix (e.g., pre-nasalization), combining (e.g., devoicing), length, suffix (e.g., aspiration), and tone. The following sections outline each part of a single Phone.

Prefix Diacritic

A prefix diacritic must appear before the base glyph. A phone may have multiple prefix diacritics.

Base Glyph

The base glyph can be any IPA vowel or consonant.

Combining Diacritic

Combining diacritics must appear directly after the base glyph; any number of combining diacritics may be used. Combining diacritics may also be added to prefix and suffix diacritics.
Note: Some combining diacritic options may cause rendering issues depending on the selected IPA font.


Phone length is indicated using character 0x02D0 (long) and 0x02D1 (half-long.) Length diacritics must appear after the phone to which they belong.

Suffix Diacritic

A suffix diacritic must appear after the base glyph. A phone may have multiple suffix diacritics.

Tone Number

Tone number is specified using superscript numbers and must appear as the last element in a phone. Tone number applies to all elements inside of a syllable unit and may be appear on any element within the syllable. If tone number appears on more than one element a space is added to the tone number indicating the break (for query and reporting purposes.)

ba²¹⁴ has tone number '214'

b²a¹⁴ has tone number '2 14'

Compound Phone

Compound phones are the combination of two phones using a ligature symbol (either character 0x0361 or 0x035c) between them. Each of the two phones may include prefix, combining, suffix, length, or tone diacritics.

Some Possible Compound Phones Description
b͜ð Combined production of [b] and [ð]
a͡ʊː Diphthong [a͡ʊ] with second component sound lengthened

Stress Marker

Prosodically prominant syllables may be coded for primary or secondary stress. Primary stress is transcribed using a superior vertical stroke (0x2C8) preceding the syllable. Secondary stress is transcribed using an inferior vertical stroke (0x2CC) preceding the syllable.

Table 1. Some Examples
Orthography Transcription
cake ˈkeɪk
revoke ɹəˈvoʊk
epiglottis ˈɛpɪˌɡlɑɾɪs

Syllable Boundary

In cases where syllable boundaries may not be obvious, they can be transcribed with a period between syllables.

Table 2. Some Examples
Orthography Transcription
re-enter ˈɹiː.ˌɛntəɹ
sighing ˈsaɪ.ɪŋ

Word Boundary

Boundaries between words are indicated via a space.

Table 3. Some Examples
Orthography Transcription
ten cats ˈtʰɛn ˈkæts
on the roof ˈan ðə ˈɹuːf

Pause (Intra-word)

Intra-word pauses are transcribed using a '^' symbol.

Table 4. Intra-word pauses
Orthography Transcription
ca^che ˈkæ^s

Pause (Inter-word)

Inter-word pauses in speech may be transcribed in one of three ways, depending on their length.

Table 5. Inter-word pauses
Code Meaning
(.) Short pause
(..) Medium-length pause
(...) Long pause
Table 6. Example
Orthography Transcription
cache (.) cache ˈkaʃ (.) ˈkaʃ

Other Transcription Items

Intonation Group

Intonation groups are prosodic domains or units which include complete intonational contours. Intonation groups can be minor (e.g. corresponding to noun, verb, or prepositional phrases) or major (e.g. corresponding to entire sentences). Minor groups are separated by a single pipe symbol (0x1C0), and major groups are separated by a double pipe symbol (0x1C1).

Table 7. Some Example Intonation Groups
Minor Major
the dog ǀ jumped ǀ over the fence It's twelve o'clock ǁ It's time for lunch
the cold wind ǀ gusted strongly I'm tired ǁ Let's go inside

Compound Word

Compound words are transcribed using a plus sign between each word.

Table 8. Some Possible Compound Words
Orthography Transcription
dog+house ˈdag+haʊs
picture+frame ˈpɪkʧɚ+fɹeːm


Description of sandhi.

Linkers are symbols to express a phonological relation between two words, for example in the case of external sandhi phenomenon. For example, while 'an' and 'apple' for two separate words, the final 'n' of the determiner is syllabified within the onset of the following syllable. We represent this relations as 'an‿apple' [əˈnæpəl].


A contraction is a combination of two words within a phrase, involving the reduction of one of the words. In Phon, contractions may be transcribed using the overtie character, 0x2040.

Orthography: [l'ami]
                        IPA Actual:  [l⁀ami]

Linkers (including Liaison)

Linkers are transcribed using the undertie character 0x203f.

Orthography: [les‿ami]
                        IPA Target:  [le‿zami]