Phonetic Symbol Guide
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Phonetic Symbol Guide

The Phonetic Symbol Guide is a book by Geoffrey Pullum and William Ladusaw that explains the histories and uses of symbols used in various phonetic transcription conventions. It was published in 1986, with a second edition in 1996, by the University of Chicago Press. Symbols include letters and diacritics of the International Phonetic Alphabet and Americanist phonetic notation, though not of the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet. The Guide was consulted by the International Phonetic Association when they established names and numerical codes for the International Phonetic Alphabet[1] and was the basis for the characters of the TIPA set of phonetic fonts.

Rare symbols

The following are not supported by Unicode as of version 13.0,[2] though all are supported by TIPA (see there for characters that are not clear below):

The Beach click letters

Some typewriter substitutions made by overstriking a Latin letter with a virgule:

Some of the symbols are idiosyncratic proposals by well-known scholars that never caught on:

  • triple virgule, ? (a close-kerned /// or italicized ?), used in a passing mention of retroflex clicks in the Cole article "Bushman Languages" in the 1966 Encyclopædia Britannica (4: 469). The symbol was removed from later editions.
Ef, thorn, and right-tail hooktop h
  • a right-tail hooktop h (fusion of ⟨?⟩ and ⟨? ⟩: approx. ??), found for the velar fricative in the Germanic 'fortis' voiceless spirant series f þ ??, contrasting with the voiced series ? ð ? and the Indo-European 'lenis' spirants ? ? ? in Prokosch (1939) A Comparative Germanic Grammar. (See esp. p. 51.) Prokosch describes the symbol as a "modified h, since h is the usual spelling in all Germanic languages" (p. 83), though other authors simply write these sounds f þ h.
  • superscript spacing diacritic ⟨⟩, used to indicate clicks in Smalley (1963)

Several symbols may be variants of characters that are supported by Unicode:

The left-hook allograph of ⟨?
  • t and d with a horizontal hook to the left, used by Daniel Jones before ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩ were adopted by the IPA in 1923; might be considered allographs of those letters
  • hooktop j, an Americanist variant of ⟨?⟩ in Smalley (1963) Manual of Articulatory Phonetics. Unlike ⟨?⟩, in the Smalley letter the hook connects to the dot of the jay and so is detached from the body of the letter.
  • p with a tail facing left ( ?) and reversed o with ogonek (?). The first is an allograph in Doke of ⟨?⟩ (turned delta ?), and the latter a misanalysis by the Guide of the same letter.

Several symbols were only mentioned in the 1949 Principles of the International Phonetic Association as recent suggestions for further improvement and were never adopted:

The h-m ligature for [m?]
  • h-m ligature, approx. hm or ? (turned ?) for [m?]
  • turned small capital K, K, for a generic consonant; now ⟨C⟩ is generally used. Accepted for a different use in Unicode 14.
  • turned small capital U, U, for a generic vowel; now ⟨V⟩ is generally used

Many of the symbols were proposed by George Trager to improve the Bloch & Trager system of vowel transcription and other conventions of Americanist notation, but were never adopted:

  • inverted (turned) small capital A to replace æ?
The small-cap A-O ligature for [?]
  • small capital ? ligature (looks like an A-D ligature) to replace
  • small capital ? to replace
  • barred ?, ? (turned ?) to replace
  • inverted (turned) ?, ?, to replace
  • ⟩, to replace
  • u with a bar on the left leg, u- , to replace u?
  • gamma with a palatal tail turning left, approx. , to replace
  • gamma with a retroflex tail turning right, approx. , to replace
The proposed letter for a dental nasal
  • a fusion of ? + n (n with the arm of ? to the left, approx. ?n ) for the dental nasal [n?]
  • a reversed small capital L, ? (turned ?), for a labial lateral approximant; this is not a distinctive sound and the symbol was never used.


  1. ^ Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, 1999, p. 31, 161.
  2. ^ Updated from; ⟨u? ⟩ added to Unicode 11 as U+A7B9

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