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Prononciation Guide for the Names of Members of Congress

This project contains a pronunciation guide for the names of current and recent-past Members of the United States Congress. This is a project of The first 539 records were created by Ezra Wyschogrod.

legislators.yaml is a YAML-formatted file. Each record is a current or recent-past Member of Congress which looks like:

- id:
    govtrack: 400623
  name: Debbie // Wasserman Schultz
  ipa: dɛbi // wasɹ̩mən ʃʊlt͡s
  respell: DE-bee // WAS-er-mun shuults

The record has four parts:

id...govtrack provides the numeric ID of the Member of Congress on GovTrack.

name provides the first and last name of the Member of Congress, as used by this project, separated by //.

ipa provides the pronunciation of the name using a subset of the International Phonetic Alphabet the world-wide standard for transcribing the sounds of speech. An IPA transcription is provided for the name as it appears in the name field, with the corresponding name parts separated by //. We use a subset of IPA, to guide us to transcribing sounds consistently, that consists of the vowels a ɐ ɑ æ a͡ɪ a͡ʊ ə ɛ ɝ e͡ɪ i ɪ o ɔ ɔ͡ɪ o͡ʊ u ʊ ʌ and consonants b d d͡z d͡ʒ f g h j k l m n ŋ p ɹ ɹ̜ ɾ s ʃ t t͡s t͡ʃ θ ʒ v w z.

respell provides a friendly guide to the pronunciation of the name using a "respelling". The respelling is provided for the name as it appears in the name field, with the corresponding name parts separated by //. We use a respelling guide similar to the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary:

Vowel Example Consonant Example
a cat b bat
ah calm ch chin
air hair d day
f fun
aw law g get
ay say h hat
e bed j jam
ee meet k king
l leg
er her m man
ew few n not
i pin ng sing
ī eye nk thank
o top p pen
oh most r rag
oo soon s/ss sit
oor poor sh push
or corn t top
ow cow th thin
oy boy t͡h this
u/uh cup v van
uu book w will
y yes
z zebra
zh vision


  • We use u and uh for both the stressed and unstressed mid central vowel, but u in used in closed syllables and uh in open syllables for readability reasons.
  • ah and o are similar sounds, but o is restricted to closed syllables, except ones that end in r or l, since in open syllables one might think it should be pronounced as in "do", "to", etc., and "dor"/"bold" is a different vowel. ah is used in open syllables and closed syllables ending in r/l.
  • s is doubled as ss in non-complex codas to make it less confusable for a z sound. In complex codas, the presence of other consonants with a voice contrast often makes s unambiguous.

In addition:

  • Syllables are separated by dashes.
  • Capitalization is used to indicate primary stress, but in single-syllable names the entire name is lowercase.
  • Multi-word names, whether separated by dashes or spaces, are broken out by spaces.


Prononciation Guide for Names of Members of Congress



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