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Phoneme Features and the International Phonetic Alphabet


Evan Kirshenbaum created an ASCII transcription of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)[1], [2]. As well as using ASCII characters for specific IPA phonemes, this transcription provides a set of 3-letter feature abbreviations allowing a phoneme to be described as a sequence of features.

This document extends Evan Kirshenbaum's feature set to be able to describe the different phonemes in the IPA and as are used in the various languages of the world. The origin column is used to describe where the feature originated from:

  1. kirshenbaum -- The feature originated from Evan Kirshenbaum's ASCII-IPA Feature Abbreviation table in Appendix A of his ASCII-IPA document [1], [2].
  2. cainteoir -- The feature originated from the Cainteoir Text-to-Speech phoneme features [5].
  3. espeak-ng -- The features originate from the eSpeak NG Text-to-Speech program, and are defined in this document.

Not all the Cainteoir Text-to-Speech phoneme features are listed here, only the ones that are relevant to eSpeak NG.

The goal of this document is not to provide a detailed guide on phonetics. Nor is it intended to be able to accurately record differences in IPA diacritics. Instead, it is designed to be a transcription guide for authors of espeak-ng languages and voices on how to specify phonemes so that the IPA and feature transcriptions are consistent.

Phoneme Transcription Schemes

BCP47 Subtag Abbreviation Transcription Scheme Encoding
fonipa IPA International Phonetic Alphabet Unicode
fonxsamp X-SAMPA Extended Speech Assessment Methods Phonetic Alphabet ASCII
x-foncxs CXS Conlang X-SAMPA ASCII
x-fonkirsh Kirshenbaum (ASCII-IPA) ASCII
  1. foncxs and fonkirsh are private use extensions defined in the bcp47-extensions file, so have the x- private use specifier before their subtag names.

Consonants

blb lbd dnt alv pla rfx alp pal vel uvl phr glt
vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd
nas m ɱ n ɳ̊ ɳ ɲ̟̊ ɲ̟ ɲ̊ ɲ ŋ̊ ŋ ɴ̥ ɴ
stp p b t d ʈ ɖ c ɟ k ɡ q ɢ ʡ ʔ
sib afr t͡s d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ ʈ͡ʂ ɖ͡ʐ t͡ɕ d͡ʑ
afr p͡ɸ b͡β p̪͡f b̪͡v t͡θ d͡ð c͡ç ɟ͡ʝ k͡x ɡ͡ɣ q͡χ ɢ͡ʁ ʡ͡ħ ʡ͡ʕ ʔ͡h
lat afr t͡ɬ d͡ɮ ʈ͡ɭ̊˔ c͡ʎ̥˔ k͡ʟ̝̊ ɡ͡ʟ̝
sib frc s z ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ ɕ ʑ
frc ɸ β f v θ ð ç ʝ x ɣ χ ʁ ħ ʕ h ɦ
lat frc ɬ ɮ ɭ̊˔ ʎ̥˔ ʎ̝ ʟ̝̊ ʟ̝
apr ʋ̥ ʋ ɹ̥ ɹ ɻ̊ ɻ j ɰ̊ ɰ
lat apr l ɭ̊ ɭ ʎ̥ ʎ ʟ̥ ʟ ʟ̠
flp ⱱ̟ ɾ̥ ɾ ɽ̊ ɽ ɢ̆ ʡ̮
lat flp ɺ ɭ̆ ʎ̮ ʟ̆
trl ʙ r ɽ͡r̥ ɽ͡r ʀ̥ ʀ ʜ ʢ
clk ʘ ǀ ǃ ǂ
lat clk ǁ
imp ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ ʛ
ejc ʈʼ ʡʼ
ejc frc θʼ ʃʼ ʂʼ χʼ
lat ejc frc ɬʼ

Other Symbols

bld alv pla pal lbv vel
vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd vls vcd
nas ŋ͡m
stp k͡p ɡ͡b
afr p͡f b͡v
vzd frc ɧ
ptr apr ɥ ʍ w
fzd lat apr ɫ

Gemination

Gemination is found in several languages including Italian and Japanese. It is also present in the suprasegmental phonology between words such as "lamppost" and "evenness".

Some linguists use the long suprasegmental for geminate consonants. The eSpeak NG convention is to use consonant length for phonation when consonant length is distinct without gemination occurring.

The way gemination is represented in eSpeak NG is to duplicate the phonemes, with the first phoneme using the unx feature. For example, n̚.n for a geminated n. This describes how with the stp and nas consonants, the mouth remains closed (unx) for the first of the geminated consonants.

Manner of Articulation

Feature Symbol Name Origin
nas nasal kirshenbaum
stp plosive (stop) kirshenbaum
afr affricate espeak-ng
frc fricative kirshenbaum
flp tap/flap kirshenbaum
trl trill kirshenbaum
apr approximant kirshenbaum
clk click kirshenbaum
ejc ◌ʼ ejective kirshenbaum
imp implosive kirshenbaum
vwl vowel kirshenbaum

The vwl phonemes are described using vowel height and backness features, while consonants (the other manners of articulation) are described using place of articulation features.

NOTE: Evan Kirshenbaum defines an orl (oral) feature which is not used. From context, it looks like {orl,stp} was indended to be used for plosives, and {nas,stp} for nasals. That feature is not defined in this document, but is defined in the phoneme model.

The manner of articulation can be refined using the following features:

Feature Name Origin
lat lateral kirshenbaum
sib sibilant cainteoir

NOTE: Evan Kirshenbaum defines a ctl (central) feature which is not used. From context, it looks like it was intended to explicitly annotate consonants as having a central release, similar to how the lat feature is used for lateral release. As consonants are implicitly central, the ctl feature is not needed and as such is not defined in this document.

Place of Articulation

Feature Name Origin
blb bilabial kirshenbaum
lbd labio-dental kirshenbaum
bld bilabial-labio-dental espeak-ng
dnt dental kirshenbaum
alv alveolar kirshenbaum
pla palato-alveolar kirshenbaum
rfx retroflex kirshenbaum
alp alveolo-palatal cainteoir
pal palatal kirshenbaum
vel velar kirshenbaum
lbv labio-velar kirshenbaum
uvl uvular kirshenbaum
phr pharyngeal kirshenbaum
glt glottal kirshenbaum

The bld place of articulation is used for afr consonants that have a blb onset and a lbd release, e.g. in the German p͡f consonant.

NOTE: The IPA charts make a distinction between pharyngeal and epiglottal consonants, but Wikipedia does not. This model uses the Wikipedia descriptions.

Voice

Feature Name Origin
vls voiceless kirshenbaum
vcd voiced kirshenbaum

Vowels

fnt cnt bck
unr rnd unr rnd unr rnd
hgh i y ɨ ʉ ɯ u
smh ɪ ʏ ʊ
umd e ø ɘ ɵ ɤ o
mid ə
lmd ɛ œ ɜ ɞ ʌ ɔ
sml æ ɐ
low a ɶ ɑ ɒ

Other Symbols

Symbol Features
ɚ unr mid cnt rzd vwl
ɝ unr lmd cnt rzd vwl

Height

Feature Name Origin
hgh close (high) kirshenbaum
smh near-close (semi-high) kirshenbaum
umd close-mid (upper-mid) kirshenbaum
mid mid kirshenbaum
lmd open-mid (lower-mid) kirshenbaum
sml near-open (semi-low) cainteoir
low open (low) kirshenbaum

Backness

Feature Name Origin
fnt front kirshenbaum
cnt center kirshenbaum
bck back kirshenbaum

NOTE: The smh vowels are more cnt than the other vowels. However, this distinction is not needed to classify these vowels so there are no features for front-central and back-central. The fnt and bck features are used instead.

Rounding

Feature Name Origin
unr unrounded kirshenbaum
rnd rounded kirshenbaum

Diacritics

Articulation

Feature Symbol Name Origin
lgl ◌̼ linguolabial cainteoir
idt ◌̪͆ interdental espeak-ng
◌̪ dental
apc ◌̺ apical espeak-ng
lmn ◌̻ laminal cainteoir
◌̟ advanced
◌̠ retracted
◌̈ centralized
◌̽ mid-centralized
◌̝ raised
◌̞ lowered

The articulations that do not have a corresponding feature name are recorded using the features of their new location in the consonant or vowel charts, not using the features of the base phoneme.

Air Flow

Feature Symbol Name Origin
egs egressive espeak-ng
igs ingressive espeak-ng

The ↑ and ↓ symbols are from the extended IPA[7]. They only need to be used when the air flow is different to the base IPA phoneme (e.g. using ↓ on pulmonic consonants).

Phonation

Feature Symbol Name Origin
brv ◌̤ breathy voice espeak-ng
slv ◌̥ slack voice cainteoir
stv ◌̬ stiff voice cainteoir
crv ◌̰ creaky voice cainteoir
glc ʔ͡◌ glottal closure espeak-ng

The IPA ◌̥ diacritic is also used to fill the vls spaces in the IPA consonant charts. Thus, when ◌̥ is used with a vcd consonant that does not have an equivalent vls consonant, the resulting consonant is vls, not slv.

NOTE: Evan Kirshenbaum uses the mrm (murmured) feature for breathy voice, using it for [ɦ] instead of vcd, following the way the phoneme is pronounced instead of how it is annotated on the IPA chart.

Rounding and Labialization

Feature Symbol Name Origin
ptr ◌ʷ, ◌ᶣ protruded espeak-ng
cmp ◌ᵝ compressed espeak-ng

NOTE: Evan Kirshenbaum uses the lzd (labialized) feature for protruded.

The degree of rounding/labialization can be specified using the following features:

Feature Symbol Name Origin
mrd ◌̹ more rounded cainteoir
lrd ◌̜ less rounded cainteoir

Syllabicity

Feature Symbol Name Origin
syl ◌̩ syllabic kirshenbaum
nsy ◌̯ non-syllabic cainteoir

Consonant Release

Feature Symbol Name Origin
asp ◌ʰ aspirated kirshenbaum
nrs ◌ⁿ nasal release espeak-ng
lrs ◌ˡ lateral release espeak-ng
unx ◌̚ no audible release (unexploded) kirshenbaum

Co-articulation

Feature Symbol Name Origin
pzd ◌ʲ palatalized kirshenbaum
vzd ◌ˠ, ◌̴ velarized kirshenbaum
fzd ◌ˤ, ◌̴ pharyngealized kirshenbaum
nzd ◌̃ nasalized kirshenbaum
rzd ◌˞ rhoticized kirshenbaum

The combining ◌̴ mark is used for velarized or pharyngealized consonants. Wikipedia recommends precomposed letters for this as this combining mark is deprecated, and the font may not render the composed form correctly.

Tongue Root

The tongue root position can be specified using the following features:

Feature Symbol Name Origin
atr ◌̘ advanced tongue root cainteoir
rtr ◌̙ retracted tongue root cainteoir

Fortis and Lenis

Feature Symbol Name Origin
fts ◌͈ fortis espeak-ng
lns ◌͉ lenis espeak-ng

The extended IPA[7] ◌͈ and ◌͉ diacritics are used to specify lesser (lns) and greater (fts) oral pressure than the unmodified voiced or voiceless phoneme. This distinction is made by the Ewe, Tabasaran, Archi, and other languages[8].

Where fortis and lenis are used to contrast consonant durations (e.g. in the Jawoyn, Ojibwe, and Zurich German languages[8]), the length suprasegmentals are used instead.

Suprasegmentals

Stress

Symbol Name
ˈ◌ primary stress
ˌ◌ secondary stress

Length

Feature Symbol Name Origin
est ◌̆ extra short cainteoir
hlg ◌ˑ half-long cainteoir
lng ◌ː long kirshenbaum
elg ◌ːː extra long espeak-ng

Rhythm

Symbol Name
. syllable break
◌‿◌ linking (no break)

Tones

Symbol Name
◌˥ extra high tone
◌˦ high tone
◌˧ mid tone
◌˨ low tone
◌˩ extra low tone
ꜛ◌ upstep
ꜜ◌ downstep

Intonation

Symbol Name
` `
major (intonation) break
↗︎ global rise
↘︎ global fall

References

  1. Kirshenbaum, Evan, Representing IPA phonetics in ASCII (HTML). 1993.

  2. Kirshenbaum, Evan, Representing IPA phonetics in ASCII (PDF). 2001.

  3. International Phonetic Association, The International Phonetic Alphabet and the IPA Chart. 2015. Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA).

  4. Wikipedia. International Phonetic Alphabet. 2017. Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA).

  5. Dunn, R. H., Cainteoir Text-to-Speech Phoneme Features. 2013-2015.

  6. Wikipedia. Voiced glottal fricative. 2017, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA).

  7. Wikipedia. Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet. 2017, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA).

  8. Wikipedia. Fortis and lenis. 2017, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA).

  9. Wikipedia. Place of articulation. 2017, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA).

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