So the tilde used on the top vs. the bottom means different things (nasal vs. creaky voice). This got me wondering if the [ ̥ ] ring means anything differently when it is on the top as seen here ŋ̊. The IPA chart says when it's on the bottom it means voiceless, but wanted to clarify and see if it meant anything different when on the top.

Next, I saw these small superscript symbols: [ᵐ ᵑ ᶮ ʱ]. Wondering what [ᵐ ᵑ ᶮ] are for, if they are just some variant of nasalization or if they are something different. [ʱ] I assume is for breathy voice, but I don't see why they don't follow the IPA doc and use diaeresis below like [a̤].

The phonetic symbols for unicode lists quite a few symbols that aren't found in the IPA doc: [ʳ ʴ ʵ ʶ] (r-coloring or r-offglides). These also I'm not sure where they fit in: [ʹ ʺ ʻ ʼ ʽ ʾ ʿ ˂ ˃ ˄ ˅ ˆ ˇ ˈ ˉ ˊ ˋ ˌ ˍ ˎ ˏ].

Then I saw these in the Estonian phonology: [pː] [tː] [tʲː] [kː]. I'm not sure how those can be long since they happen in an instant. They also show [fː] [sː] [sʲː] [ʃː] [hː] which is the first time I've seen it otherwise not on vowels.

The Yuki phonology has a voiceless t with [ t̥ ], but I thought [t] was already voiceless so this just has me wondering if I am missing something, or they are just getting extra specific on saying the [t] can't become a [d] and be voiced.

Then there are two different unicode symbols for pharyngealization: [ˁ ˤ]. They look the same but find/replace shows they are different. Wondering if that is just a glitch or if there are two different meanings that I can't quite see because of how small it is.

I also saw [ ˀ ] in unicode (the reverse of the pharyngealization symbol, i.e. the glottal stop symbol, but small), wondering what that's for. The Yuki phonology has it in [ˀm]. Wondering if that is just the same as doing /'m/.

Finally, the Mam phonology has [ ɑ͍ ] which has the ͍ two-way arrow beneath which I haven't seen in the IPA doc. Wondering what that means.

So to summarize, these are the things I've seen that aren't in the IPA sheet:

  • [ ɑ͍ ]
  • [ ˀ ]
  • [ᵐ ᵑ ᶮ ʱ]
  • [ʳ ʴ ʵ ʶ]
  • [ʹ ʺ ʻ ʼ ʽ ʾ ʿ ˂ ˃ ˄ ˅ ˆ ˇ ˈ ˉ ˊ ˋ ˌ ˍ ˎ ˏ]

Wondering if one could explain what these mean.

  • 2
    You have already asked a question about superscript IPA symbols and received an answer. I suggest you review at least answers to your past questions before posting a new one.
    – Nardog
    Oct 8 '18 at 3:27
  • 1
    I understand many of your queries here. Nonetheless, it might be much more helpful for other users here, and for the site, if you could split this into separate questions. (Otherwise it's a complete nightmare for someone who's just got the one query to navigate). Cheers :) [I might answer a fw of these, but only inindividual Q's!] Oct 14 '18 at 23:25
  • @Nardog The answer there is the kind of answer that one can only read if one already knows the answer. Don't berate the OP! Oct 14 '18 at 23:27

The ring means the same thing above or below. Some consonants go up and some go down, and linguists found it easier to read if they stuck the ring on the opposite side. The reason the trema has different meanings above and below is a historical accident, really.

The superscript nasals are used to indicate prenasalization. Generally, a superscript IPA letter means "beginning/ending like this other sound". So [ᵐb] starts like m and ends like b, while [pʰ] starts like p and ends like h. It's a bit clunky, but a lot more versatile than adding more diacritics, since it can indicate that a sound is "kind of like" another in all sorts of different ways.

Breathy-voiced consonants are written like [bʱ], while breathy-voiced vowels are written like [a̤]. Another historical accident—the IPA isn't always particularly systematic in how they do things.

Many of those symbols aren't official IPA. Unicode encodes various phonetic symbols that aren't IPA: my favorite one is , "lowercase U on its side".

Of the ones that are actual IPA, the superscripts are for the "begins/ends sort of like this" usage mentioned above, the curved apostrophe is for ejectives, and many of the others are tone markers. The IPA has two different official ways to do tone, and the diacritics are less favored nowadays, but they're still around and you'll see them a lot.

Consonants can be lengthened, just like vowels. Continuants continue the sound for the whole time, while oral stops just have a period of silence in the middle. Compare English "pot on" vs "pot top"; the latter has a lengthened [t]. Italian also has contrastive consonant length, marked with double letters.

Sometimes the pairs like t and d are used for voicing, and sometimes for "fortis-lenis", which is often the fancy linguistic way of saying "there's a distinction here and we're not exactly sure what it is". If you're using t for the fortis version, then is specifically fortis and devoiced.

Those two symbols are basically equivalent. In theory one is smaller than the other, but I've never seen a font where they look different. Unicode also has certain idiosyncrasies that can't be fixed any more due to the policy of never changing or removing existing code points.

The arrow underneath is an extIPA symbol for spread lips. Some linguists needed symbols for things that the IPA didn't have, so they made up new ones; those are all collectively known as "extIPA", for Extended IPA.


Please try to find answers yourself, before posting.

It wouldn't have been hard to find the Wikipedia page for voicelessness which says

The International Phonetic Alphabet has distinct letters for many voiceless and modally voiced pairs of consonants (the obstruents), such as [p b], [t d], [k ɡ], [q ɢ], [f v], and [s z]. Also, there are diacritics for voicelessness, U+0325  ̥ COMBINING RING BELOW and U+030A  ̊ COMBINING RING ABOVE, which is used for letters with a descender. Diacritics are typically used with letters for prototypically voiced sounds, such as vowels and sonorant consonants: [ḁ], [l̥], [ŋ̊].

While the very page you linked to (and therefore should have at least partially read) for Phonetic symbols in Unicode explicitly says that's it's not all IPA!

The Wikipedia page for pharyngealization says

The Unicode characters ⟨ˤ⟩ (U+02E4) and ⟨ˁ⟩ (U+02C1) look graphically similar. The IPA Handbook[1] lists U+02E4 (IPA Number 423) as the only unambiguous pharyngealization marker. The superimposed tilde (U+0334, IPA Number 428) denotes either velarization or pharyngealization, and the IPA Handbook does not mention U+02C1 at all.

Which doesn't explain why U+02C1 exists, but at least it's clear which is the official character.

The Estonian phonology page you linked to explains:

Like the vowels, most consonants can be inherently short or long. For the plosives, this distinction is reflected as a distinction in tenseness/voicing, with short plosives being voiced and long plosives being voiceless. This distinction only applies fully for single consonants after stressed syllables. In other environments, the length or tenseness/voicing distinctions may be neutralised ... In addition, long consonants and clusters also have two suprasegmental lengths, like the vowels

The arrow diacritic in Mam is interesting. I haven't seen that symbol used and haven't yet found a reference to it. But don't ask what it means! The page (which again you linked to) clearly says that it's for long vowels. If you want help to ask a good question we'll help you in Meta.

I didn't look into the others, but I wouldn't be surprised if they also had easily located answers. We don't mind basic questions, even homework questions here, but we expect that question askers respect question answerers by asking after having attempted in good faith to find an answer themselves. A reminder of what the Code of Conduct and How do I ask a good question? page say:

If you’re here to get help, make it as easy as possible for others to help you. Follow our guidelines and remember that our community is made possible by volunteers.

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

Please also don't ask questions about symbols divorced from the context you saw them in. If you've seen a symbol you should be able to give us a link or reference to where you saw it.

And lastly, one question at a time!

  • 2
    The arrow is part of extIPA. Superscript nasal symbols usually indicate prenasalized consonants.
    – Nardog
    Oct 8 '18 at 3:21
  • 1
    Sometimes there are many things going on and it's difficult to tell where to look next even if it may seem obvious. Oct 8 '18 at 3:37
  • @LancePollard I didn't know any of these things before writing this answer. I looked it all up as I was writing it, in about 20 minutes total. It's fine to not know things, but when the very pages you yourself linked to contain the answers it's hard to believe you're asking in good faith.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 8 '18 at 3:39
  • 1
    What a rude, unfriendly, unreasonable and unhelpful answer. Completely useless for future readers. Oct 14 '18 at 22:56
  • 1
    Don't put site usage meta advice in answers. Oct 14 '18 at 23:28

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