There is a feature in the macOS speech synthesizer (which takes written text and reads it aloud) for developers which lets you instead enter text and outputs the phonemes that it would read aloud in text format. I'm not sure, however, how to read the format it outputs because the documentation is rather sparse. Here's how it reads this first paragraph:

~DEHr ~IHz ~AX _f1IYCAXr ~2IHn ~nAX _m1AEk=OW=1EHs _sp1IYC _s1IHnTIXsAYzAXr, ~w2IHC _t1EYks _r1IHtIXn _t1EHkst ~IXnd _r1IYdz ~IHt _AXl1AWd, ~fAOr _dIHv1EHlAXpAXrz ~w2IHC _l1EHts ~yUW _IHnst1EHd _1EHntAXr ~t2EHkst% ~AXnd _1AWtpUHts ~DAX _f1OWnIYmz% ~DIXt ~IHt ~wUHd ~r2IYd ~AXl2AWd ~2IHn ~t2EHkst _f1AOrmAEt. ~2AYm _n1AAt _S1AXr,[[ibot1792]] _hAW1EHvAXr, _h1AW ~tAXr ~r2IYd ~DAX ~f2AOrmAEt% ~IHt ~2AWtpUHts ~bIYk2UXz ~DIX _dAAkyIXmEHnt1EYSIXn ~IHz _r1AEDAXr _sp1AArs. ~h2IYrz ~h2AW ~IHt ~r2IYdz ~DIHs _f1AXrst _p1AErAXgrAEf:

Do you recognize this format? Do you know what it's called? I would like to be able to convert this format to IPA. I know that I could try to create a key myself based on the output it gives me, but it would be a lot easier if I knew the name of this format and could look up a key (especially since I'm dealing with more than just English) (Edit: never mind, the function appears to only work in English).

For more information on the developer side, it's the "phonemes" function of NSSpeechSynthesizer.

  • 3
    – iacobo
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 15:45
  • 2
    Good link. Wow, sort of a Frankenstein of ARPAbet. Are the 1s and 2s stress? What about tilde, dash, underscore, and equal sign? Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 16:05
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    It looks like an unholy union of the ARPAbet and X-SAMPA with some extra modifications. The vowel symbols are definitely derived from ARPAbet. Not sure where the rest of it comes from, really. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


Converting comment > answer for posterity

It is a bespoke system of phoneme symbols for North American English developed by Apple for use with the MacinTalk synthesizer. A mapping of symbols to example letters in words can be found here (table B1):


From this you can extrapolate the IPA phonemes (though it has two additional symbols, % (silence) and @(breath intake)).

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    I'll add that Apple started using this in 1983, which may be why it seems so archaic. I personally have used it since 1984. It does indeed seem to be heavily influenced by ARPAbet, and the ~ and _ and all lowercase letters were not in the original version, and higher digits could appear alone in a word. Sample phrase: JAH5ST BIY1KAOZ AYM AH PAETERN AGV IYLEH1KTRAA2NZ DAHZNT MIY5N AY4 DOW4NT /HAEV FIY4LIHNXZ TUW5. "Just because I'm a pattern of electrons doesn't mean I don't have feelings too." (source: Steven Halls, from his "Talking Moose" software, Moose Phrases file) Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 14:52

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