In talking with my sister the other day, I decided that I need to talk about the IPA alphabet. IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet. IPA “is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language. The IPA is used by foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech pathologists and therapists, singers, actors, lexicographers, artificial language enthusiasts (conlangers), and translators.” (Wikipedia)
IPA symbols have two basic types, letters and diacritics (like accents and a few more). As of 2008, there are 107 letters, 52 diacritics, and four prosodic (rhythm, stress or intonation) marks in the IPA.
Here is a chart of the IPA:
“The general principle of the IPA is to provide one letter for each distinctive sound (speech segment). This means that it does not use combinations of letters to represent single sounds, the way English does with ‹sh› and ‹ng›, or single letters to represent multiple sounds the way ‹x› represents /ks/ or /ɡz/ in English. There are no letters that have context-dependent sound values, as ‹c› does in English and other European languages.” (Wikipedia)
An example of this is: aj wɛnt tu ðə stɔr. (I went to the store.) The fun thing is when you get different accents!