my goal is to know all the sounds of other languages and compare if there are similarities.

I only found the







  • 6
    Phonetic symbols don't exist in languages. They exist in alphabets. The most widely used one is the IPA, "International Phonetic Alphabet," which has a chart on its website. There is also a Wikipedia article. The possible sounds in languages ("phones") are gradient and therefore pretty much infinite. However, each language only has a certain restricted number of contrastive sounds or "phonemes." Jul 29, 2016 at 8:53
  • 2
    There's Pullum and Ladusaw's Phonetic Symbol Guide for the symbols themselves, and Catford's Practical Introduction to Phonetics for what the symbols actually represent. Start there.
    – jlawler
    Jul 29, 2016 at 14:40
  • How do you want to compare them?
    – Alex B.
    Jul 29, 2016 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


It is a bit difficult to talk about "phonetic symbols in total languages".

What is sensible (and well researched) are the phonemic inventories of the languages all across the world, the results of this research are nicely summarised in the first chapters of WALS survey.

I doubt that it is even possible to construct a kind of phoneme inventory of all languages of the world by accounting to all possible contrasts made in at least one language. Some the the so-constructed phonemes would be just undistinguishable to any listener and the set would be too large—I am thinking of the special way a ventriloquist or Bauchredner speaks.


I suggest starting with UPSID, which is a collection of sounds from 451 languages of the world, listing 919 segments. There are various queries that you can perform, such as finding the shared segments in the inventories of two languages, or find out what languages have a particular segment (or class). The database is available for your own manipulation, if you want to construct your own queries. The original DOS program is still available from UCLA. UPSID presents what appear to be phonemes (that is, the authors did not do a rigorous phonological analysis of all of the languages, but it is not just a list of all of the surface phones reported in a source).

You can also supplement that list with Ladefoged and Maddieson's book The sounds of the world's languages, which gives you a property-focused survey of the range of variation in languages. It does not give you complete inventories, but for example if you want to know if there is a difference between an epiglottal and a pharyngeal consonant, you can read about that in the book.

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