"ɛə̯" or "ɛə" can be written as "ea" "ɛː" "ɛ" and "ɛə" in various dictionaries. http://teflpedia.com/IPA_phoneme_/e%C9%99/ I don't see the value as they aren't fixing the non-intuitive nature of IPA symbols "j" as y sound is still standard.
http://teflpedia.com/IPA_phoneme_/e%C9%99/ Why change when it doesn't make the reading of the symbols any easier- you still need to memorise them?

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    You may want to give us some links where you noticed such symbols. I can be result of a typo of simply misconfigured fonts. Commented May 20, 2017 at 7:37
  • You can find similar in the many dictionaries. Commented May 20, 2017 at 8:49
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    many English dictionaries write /ɛ/ as /e/ due to "tradition", which means for no good reason, really (also /ʌ/ for what's more of an [ɐ], and /ɒ/ for an [ɔ]—this kinda thing confused the hell out of me when I was learning English). /ɛː/ vs. /ɛə/ sounds like dialectal variation to me, or different analyses; while 'ea' is probably a lazy way of typing /ɛɐ/, which I think I can hear e.g. in certain RP pronunciations of "somewhere". Commented May 20, 2017 at 9:51
  • Is it regional dictionaries you are talking about? Commented May 20, 2017 at 13:38
  • @leoboiko the usage of /e/ over /ɛ/ is indeed actually proper IPA usage; the principles of IPA generally state that 1) " if two sounds contrast in any language, there should be a difference in the transcription convention to indicate this difference", and 2) "use Roman characters as much as possible"; since English /e/ doesn't contrast with /ɛ/, it is safe to use one phoneme, which can be said to be /e/, that is orthographically the simplest one possible for such a span of allophones.
    – Darkgamma
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


IPA is only a set of symbols and approximate phonetic values, and there is no mandate to transcribe English words any particular way. The variants [eə, ɛə, ɛə̯, ɛː] are all within IPA, and the labeling of [ɛə̯] as "strict IPA" is a misnomer: There is no such thing as "strict IPA", there is IPA, or not IPA (as in traditional dictionary "trän-SKRIP-shun"). It is possible that [ɛə̯] is specifically taught by UCL or used in Jones dictionary, but IPA does not officially sanction any particular transcription practices for languages.

Dictionaries correctly tend to avoid narrow phonetic transcriptions, since they tend to reflect individual idiosyncracies. Instead, they give broad phonemic transcriptions which describe a wider range of language forms (though for English it's really impossible to give a single form that generalizes to all dialects), and then leave it to the user to discern how "square" i.e. [skwɛɹ] is pronounced in a particular region.

  • If that is true then IPA has two "r"s - the trilled one and the one that is written in just about every English dictionary's IPA script- so much for one character one sound. Also the upside "r" that is written as the correct r for English. Commented May 22, 2017 at 6:54

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