Nicknames for IPA symbols

A recent blog post by John Wells, which discusses transcriptions of toddler-speech and also mentions so-called phonetic alphabets, made me remember that I once created a phonetic alphabet for the symbols in the IPA (International Phonetic Association) alphabet.

Although I’ve used it largely for my own benefit, it could potentially be useful to anyone who wants to spell out phonetic transcriptions without resorting to cumbersome and complex phonetic descriptions. The full table, with all the nicknames, can be downloaded as a PDF from here. It’s been updated and revised a few times over the years.

Most of the names are arbitrary, though not entirely un-motivated. For instance, ƀ is named barbie, which is a contraction of barred b, while đ is named bardy, a shortening of barred d.

Some names derive from IPA’s own pamphlet, The principles of the International Phonetic Association, 1949. For instance, the ɮ symbol is named dhla simply because in the IPA pamphlet that particular symbol is exemplified with the Zulu word dhla, in which the sound represented by that symbol is said to occur.

Other names derive from a symbol’s graphic features. For instance, ɰ is named ham because it looks like a combination of lower-case H and M, though upside-down. Thus H+M ≈ ham. Perhaps I was hungry when I made that connection.

Anywho, as far as I know, no such or similar "phonetic alphabet" exist for the symbols of the IPA. Maybe phoneticians don’t need one? Or else they resort to all kinds of ad-hoc and impromptu solutions. Either way, here‘s one they can use should they need one.

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