The International Phonetic Alphabet

The human vocal tract is capable of producing over 100 distinct sounds. The International Phonetic Alphabet was developed in the late 19th Century by The International Phonetic Association to be used as a tool for representing these sounds. We will consider the historical development of the IPA. We will examine the workings of the human vocal tract and the relatively small number of features which are capable of producing this panopoly of human speech sounds. We will investigate the specific sounds recognised and utilised in speaking English. We will attempt some hands-on IPA transcription.


  • Examine the reasons for the development of the IPA and outline its various uses and fields of application.
  • Explain the IPA chart and offer some definition for distinctions between consonants and vowels.
  • Show the human vocal tract and explain the articulators and places of articulation and the manner of production of English consonants.
  • Explain the feature of voicing.
  • Show transcription adaptations for Australian English
  • Transcribe your name and your shopping list!

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Describe the development of the IPA and discuss the reasons for its creation.
  2. Define the kinds of professionals who call on IPA for their work.
  3. Understand the basic structure and workings of the human vocal tract.
  4. Be able to identify the symbols used to transcribe Australian English.
  5. Be able to do simple transcriptions in IPA.

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