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SAMPA — Accurate representation of phonetics in ASCII    

"SAMPA" is an acronym for "Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet". It refers to a wide variety of different systems for representing phonetics in ASCII. There are different systems for different languages because the differences between different vowels are defined differently in different languages. There are also some differences between dialects. There are also a variety of different levels of complexity in SAMPA systems. Some are so complex that they can represent any utterance in any language. See this site:

SAMPA Home Page

for more information.

This SAMPA system I use is for English worldwide (with examples mainly from U.S. and U.K. usage) and is simple enough for most people to use easily. Although it has some provisions for some non-English languages it is probably insufficient to handle any of them properly.

This version differs from most other English SAMPA systems in that one particularly important respect: my sample pronunciations cover both of the common dialectal renditions of /r/ after a vowel. The official SAMPA gives examples like /ste@z/ for "stairs" with no note or comment, which would lead one to believe that is the only pronunciation of "stairs". This might be true to the Queen's English, but doesn't represent the majority of American speakers or the dialect used in mass media, which say /sterz/ or sometimes even /steIrz/.

Consonants: SAMPA IPA Symbol Example Description of corresponding sound ----- --------------- --------------------- ----------------------------------------------- /b/ b 'b' bin /bIn/ plosive /d/ d 'd' din /dIn/ plosive /dZ/ 'g' gin /dZIn/ phonemic affricate /f/ f 'f' fin /fIn/ fricative /g/ g 'g' give /gIv/ plosive /h/ h 'h' hit /hIt/ fricative /j/ j 'y' yacht /jQt/ sonorant glide /k/ k 'k' kin /kIn/ plosive /l/ l 'l' long /lQN/ liquid sonorant /m/ m 'm' mock /mQk/ nasal sonorant /n/ n 'kn' knock /nQk/ nasal sonorant /p/ p 'p' pin /pIn/ plosive /r/ r 'wr' wrong /rQN/ liquid sonorant /s/ s 's' sin /sIn/ fricative /t/ t 't' tin /tIn/ plosive /tS/ 'ch' chin /tSIn/ phonemic affricate /v/ v 'v' vim /vIm/ fricative /w/ w 'w' wasp /wQsp/ sonorant glide /x/ x 'ch' loch /lQx/ voiceless velar fricative /z/ z 'n' zing /zIN/ fricative /B/ beta voiced bilabial fricative, Spanish *cabo* /C/ ç voiceless palatal fricative, German *ich* /D/ ð 'th' this /DIs/ voiced dental fricative, English *then* /G/ gamma voiced velar fricative, Spanish *fuego* /H/ turned h labial-palatal semivowel, French *huit* /J/ left-tail n palatal nasal, Spanish *a~no* /L/ turned y palatal lateral, Italian *famiglia* /N/ eng 'ng' thing /TIN/ velar nasal, English *thing* /R/ inv. s.c. R voiced uvular fric. or trill, French *roi* /S/ esh 'sh' shin /SIn/ voiceless palatoalveolar fricative, English *ship* /T/ theta 'th' thin /TIn/ voiceless dental fricative, English *thin* /Z/ ezh (yogh) 's' measure /"meZ@r/ voiced palatoalveolar fric., English *measure* /?/ dotless "?" '' network /ne?w3:k/ glottal stop, German *Verein*, also Danish *st/od*    Vowels: SAMPA IPA Symbol Example Description of corresponding sound ----- --------------- --------------------- ----------------------------------------------- /a/ a 'ah' ah /a/ English "AH" (similar to "short O") /A:/ script a 'a' stars /stA:rz/ open back unrounded, Cardinal 5 /eI/ 'ai' raise /reIz/ English "long A" dipthong /e/ e 'e' pet /pet/ English "short E" /E/ e 'e' pet /pEt/ (alternate represetation) English "short E" /E/ epsilon open-mid front unrounded, C3, French *même* /e@/ 'air' stairs /ste@z/ (for speakers who drop their "r"s) /i/ i 'y' happy /"h{pi/ English "long E" /i:/ 'ea' ease /i:z/ English "long E" dipthing /I/ small cap I 'i' pit /pIt/ lax close front unrounded /I@/ 'ear' fears /fI@z/ (for speakers who drop their "r"s) /aI/ 'i' rise /raIz/ English "long I" dipthong /O:/ turned c 'au' cause /kO:z/ open-mid back rounded, ("short O") /OI/ 'oi' noise /nOIz/ English "OY" dipthong /Q/ turned script a 'o' pot /pQt/ open back rounded /u/ u 'o' into /"Intu/ /u:/ 'o' lose /lu:z/ Engligh "long OO" or "long U" /@U/ 'o' nose /n@Uz/ English "long O" dipthong /U/ upsilon 'u' put /pUt/ lax close back rounded ("short OO") /U@/ 'ur' cures /kjU@z/ (for speakers who drop their "r"s) /aU/ 'ou' rouse /raUz/ English "OW" dipthong /AU/ 'ou' rouse /rAUz/ English "OW" dipthong (different dialects) /V/ turned v 'u' cut /kVt/ open-mid back unrounded ("short U") /Y/ small cap Y lax [y], German *h"ubsch* /2/ ø close-mid front rounded, French *deux* /3:/ rev. epsilon 'u' furs /f3:rz/ long mid central English "UR" dipthong /3:/ rev. epsilon 'u' furs /f3:@z/ (same example for speakers who drop their "r"s) /6/ turned a open schwa, German *besser* /9/ oe ligature open-mid front rounded, French *neuf* /{/ æ 'a' pat /p{t/ near-open front unrounded ("short A") /@/ turned e 'a' another /@"nVD@r/ central unstressed (schwa) /&/ s.c. OE lig. open front rounded /}/ barred u close central rounded, Swedish *sju*    Length, stress and tone marks: SAMPA IPA Symbol Example Description of corresponding sound ----- --------------- --------------------- ----------------------------------------------- /:/ colon length mark /"/ vertical stroke primary stress /%/ low vert. str. secondary stress /`/ (see note) falling tone /'/ (see note) rising tone

If you went to school in the United States you might have been taught an old vowel system involving "long" and "short" vowels. It is more accurate to refer to these as "free" and "checked" respectively. Here is a list of these vowels and their more modern equivalents:

a "hat" -> /{/ "short A" a "hate" -> /eI/ "long A" e "pet" -> /e/ "short E" e "pete" -> /i:/ "long E" i "kit" -> /I/ "short I" i "kite" -> /aI/ "long I" o "not" -> /Q/ "short o" o "note" -> /@U/ "long o" u "jut" -> /V/ "short u" u "jute" -> /u/ or /u:/ "long u" oo "book" -> /U/ "short oo" oo "mood" (same as "long u") "long oo"

Finally, here is a brief summary of the symbols you'll use most often for English:

Vowels: Consonants: a "hat" -> /{/ b -> /b/ qu = k + w a "hate" -> /eI/ c = k or s r -> /r/ e "pet" -> /e/ ch -> /tS/ s -> /s/ e "pete" -> /i:/ d -> /d/ sh -> /S/ er "fur" -> /3:r/ f -> /f/ t -> /t/ i "kit" -> /I/ g -> /g/ th "thin" (þ) -> /T/ i "kite" -> /aI/ h -> /h/ th "this" (ð) -> /D/ o "not" -> /Q/ j -> /dZ/ v -> /v/ o "note" -> /@U/ k -> /k/ w -> /w/ (but also = "u + oo -> /VU/) oi "coin" -> /OI/ l -> /l/ x = z or k + s oo "book" -> /U/ m -> /m/ y -> /j/ (but also = "e + @ -> /i:@/) oo "mood" -> /u/ or /u:/ n -> /n/ z -> /z/ or "door" -> /Or/ ow "town" -> /aU/ ng -> /N/ zh -> /Z/ u "jut" -> /V/ p -> /p/ ' (glottal stop) -> /?/ u "jute" -> /u/ or /u:/ @ (schwa) -> /@/ Foreign: ch -> /x/ (Scot. "loch")   

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This page was written in the "embarrassingly readable" markup language RHTF, and was last updated on 2010 Jul 27. s.27