History of the IPA

History of the IPA

The history of the International Phonetic Alphabet and the International Phonetic Association began in the late 19th century, with the formation of the association and its declaration of creating a phonetic system used for transcribing the sounds of spoken language. The association was formed by French and British language teachers led by Paul Passy, and established in Paris in 1886. The first published alphabet appears in Passy (1888). The association based their alphabet upon the Romic alphabet of Henry Sweet (1880 or 1881–1971), which in turn was based on the Phonotypic Alphabet of Isaac Pitman and Alexander John Ellis (Kelly 1981).

The alphabet has undergone a number of revisions during its history, with the 1932 version used for over half a century, until the IPA Kiel Convention of 1989. Minor adjustments have been made since then, in 1993, 1996, and 2005.

The extIPA for speech disorders was created in 1991 and revised in 1997.

Dhi Fonètik Tîcerz' Asóciécon

The International Phonetic Association was founded in Paris in 1886 under the name "Dhi Fonètik Tîcerz' Asóciécon" (The Phonetic Teachers' Association), a development of "L'Association Phonétique des Professeurs d'Anglais" (The English Teachers' Phonetic Association), to create an international phonetic alphabet primarily for English, French, and German. Many of the symbols derived from Sweet's Revised Romic alphabet.

Draft of 1887

Originally the symbols had different phonetic values from language to language. However, over time it was decided to restrict each symbol to a single prounciation. In 1887, the first draft of this standardized alphabet was published, as follows:

Declaration of purpose

By September 1888, a set of six policy statements had been formulated by the International Phonetic Association which would govern all future development of the alphabet. They were:
# Each sign should have its own distinctive sound.
# The same sign should be used for the same sound across all languages.
# As many ordinary roman letters should be used as possible, and the usage of new letters should be minimal.
# International usage should decide the sound of each sign.
# The look of the new letters should suggest the sound that they represent.
# Diacritics should be avoided when possible, as they are difficult to write and hard to see.

Aside from these six guidelines, the association encouraged phonemic-style transcription and for contributors to transcribe their own style of speaking their own language.

1900 expansion

During the 1890s, the alphabet was expanded to cover sounds of Arabic and other non-European languages which did not easily fit the Latin alphabet. These additions were published together in 1900, along with a few revisions, such as IPA|ɲ and IPA|ŋ for IPA|ɴ, and IPA|ʃ for IPA|c, which was reassigned. For the first time the glyphs were organized into a chart according to their articulation. Vowels and consonants were placed in a single chart, unlike today, to represent that phones ranged in openness from stops (top) to open vowels (bottom).

: * no Unicode character (?)

1932 revision

A second round of expansion, along with a few reassigned letter values, occurred in 1932. This was a major revision, used with little change for over half a century.

Other sounds

pʻ ƪ ƺ ř ƫ ż = z̢ σ ƍ ọ ǫ k̫ o͆ ʓ ʆ ʇ ʖ ʗ

1976 revision

In 1976 several redundant symbols were withdrawn. These were syllabic IPA|ƞ (now IPA|n̩) and the affricates IPA|ƾ (IPA|ts) and IPA|ƻ (IPA|dz); it was decided affricates would be written as stop plus fricative with a tie bar.

1989 consolidation

A primary purpose of the Kiel Convention of 1989 was to clean up the IPA. Several sounds had long been transcribed with more than one letter, contrary to the founding principles, because agreement could not be reached on which to use. These were the vowels IPA|ɷ = IPA|ʊ and IPA|ɩ = IPA|ɪ, palatalization IPA|ƫ = IPA|tʲ, and labialization IPA|k̫ = IPA|kʷ. Several symbols that incorporated primary and secondary articulation together and already become obsolete, but IPA|ʆ = IPA|ʃʲ or IPA|ɕ and IPA|ʓ = IPA|ʒʲ or IPA|ʑ were explicitly dropped. Gone too was Czech IPA|ɼ, now written with a diacritic as IPA|r̝. The click symbols IPA|ʇ, ʖ, ʗ, which the association had been unable to persuade Khoisanists and Bantuists to adopt, were replaced with the pipe symbols IPA|ǀ, ǁ, ǃ, and the additional click symbols IPA|ʘ, ǂ were adopted.

While this brought the IPA officially into line with the literature on clicks, it has meant some alienation on the part of Czechs.

1993 revision

The 1993 revision introduced three changes:
*The mid central vowels IPA|ɘ, IPA|ɵ, and IPA|ɞ were added, while IPA|ɜ was specified as the open-mid central unrounded vowel rather than simply an "additional" mid central vowel as in 1932
*The voiceless implosives IPA|ƥ, ƭ, ƈ, ƙ, ʠ were dropped
*The section on suprasegmentals to transcribe prosody was expandedIt received a minor update in 1996.


* International Phonetic Association. (1949)."The principles of the International Phonetic Association, being a description of the International Phonetic Alphabet and the manner of using it, illustrated by texts in 51 languages". London: University College, Department of Phonetics.
* International Phonetic Association. (1989). Report on the 1989 Kiel convention. "Journal of the International Phonetic Association", "19" (2), 67-80.
* Albright, Robert W. (1958). "The International Phonetic Alphabet: Its background and development". International journal of American linguistics (Vol. 24, No. 1, Part 3); Indiana University research center in anthropology, folklore, and linguistics, publ. 7. Baltimore. (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 1953).
* Ellis, Alexander J. (1869-1889). "On early English pronunciation" (Parts 1 & 5). London: Philological Society by Asher & Co.; London: Trübner & Co.
* Hultzen, Lee S. (1958). [Review of "The International Phonetic Alphabet: Its backgrounds and development" by R. W. Albright] . "Language", "34" (3), 438-442.
* Kelly, John. (1981). The 1847 alphabet: An episode of phonotypy. In R. E. Asher & E. J. A. Henderson (Eds.), "Towards a history of phonetics". Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
* Kemp, J. Alan. (1994). Phonetic transcription: History. In R. E. Asher & J. M. Y. Simpson (Eds.), "The encyclopedia of language and linguistics" (Vol. 6, pp. 3040-3051). Oxford: Pergamon.
* Passy, Paul. (1888). Our revised alphabet. "The Phonetic Teacher", 57-60.
* Pullum, Geoffrey K., and William A. Ladusaw (1996). "Phonetic Symbol Guide", 2nd edition. Chicago: Chicago University Press. ISBN 0-226-68536-5.
* Sweet, Henry. (1880-1881). Sound notation. "Transactions of the Philological Society", 177-235.
* Sweet, Henry. (1971). "The indispensable foundation: A selection from the writings of Henry Sweet". Henderson, Eugénie J. A. (Ed.). Language and language learning 28. London: Oxford University Press.

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