I'm a bit confuse between three IPA consonants chart.

  1. The consonant chart from the official IPA chart;
  2. The chart from the English Wikipedia which has different symbol for the same sound but contains more sound symbols;
  3. And lastly, the chart from the French wikipedia which looks the most comprehensive.

Which chart should be considered as a reference ? Why these charts are not melt into a new standard chart ?

  • 1
    "The chart from the English Wikipedia ... has different symbol for the same sound" - Which one?
    – Nardog
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


The official chart published by the International Phonetic Association is the official standard and thus should be used as the primary reference.

The primary difference between the official chart and the Wikipedia one is that the former is created to illustrate the set of symbols, while the latter simply lists the sounds found in the world's languages (though not exhaustive) about which Wikipedia articles exist.

The important thing to note is that the IPA does not provide a means to refer to specific sounds per se but a set of shorthands for classifications of sounds, organized based on how sounds are found to be made and used in languages. The current Principles of the International Phonetic Association states:

The IPA is designed to be a set of symbols for representing all the possible sounds of the world's languages. The representation of these sounds uses a set of phonetic categories which describe how each sound is made. These categories define a number of natural classes of sounds that operate in phonological rules and historical sound changes. The symbols of the IPA are shorthand ways of indicating certain intersections of these categories. Thus [p] is a shorthand way of designating the intersection of the categories voiceless, bilabial, and plosive; [m] is the intersection of the categories voiced, bilabial, and nasal; and so on. The sounds that are represented by the symbols are primarily those that serve to distinguish one word from another in a language.

While the distinct letters of the IPA are chosen so that they represent sounds "that serve to distinguish one word from another in a language" (known as phonemes), the IPA also provides diacritics to modify them so that it can be used to refer to finer shades of sounds.

The Wikipedia chart exploits this flexibility of the IPA to show links to the articles about phonetic sounds. So that chart should not be taken as a chart of the alphabet or its possibility, but of the articles about phonetic sounds that exist on the site.


If your goal is to learn the IPA, you should use the official IPA chart (most current version, from the web page of the president of the IPA). Wikipedia's chart includes diacritics beyond the standard illustrative box of the IPA, which is not sufficiently inclusive and is thus confusing. For example, it omits [b̥ d̥] etc. but does include [ʋ̥ ɽ̊]... which suggests that [b̥ d̥] are not possible (they clearly are). It includes [ɢ̆], but not [ğ b̆], and gives no explanation for that asymmetry. It also includes categories that are not part of the IPA classification such as lateral affricates [tɬ dɮ ʈ͜ɭ̊˔] and fails to include [tl dl ʈɭ] which are alternative transcriptions of "lateral affricate". In other words, Wikipedia's chart says more than it knows. You cannot just "look up" the transcription for a certain hypothesized sound based on a superficial classification. IPA-trained phoneticians know that there are empirical questions underlying the claims of a transcription. Wikipedia's chart is misleading in how it presents these decisions as "officially resolved".

The IPA also embodies a terminological standard, which is set aside in the English Wiki page. IPA has categories "plosive" and Wikipedia's chart has "stop"; IPA has "fricative", Wikipedia has "Sibilant fricative, Non-sibilant fricative". In general, if your goal is to learn the IPA, you should study the IPA, and if your goal is something else, you should do something else.

  • 2
    AFAIK neither "Wiki Phonetic Alphabet" nor "WPA" is a term that is understood by any group of people. I don't think it helps to use such terms in an answer unless you explicitly note that they don't have any currency and are merely used in the answer for convenience.
    – Nardog
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 18:22
  • 1
    The official definition of the ring diacritic is "voiceless". IPA "b d g" are officially defined as representing voiced plosives, while IPA "p t k" are officially defined as representing voiceless plosives, right? So the IPA table doesn't provide any basis for differentiating "b̥ d̥ g̊" from "p t k". I know that some linguists make a contrast between "b̥ d̥ g̊" and "p t k" to transcribe a "lenis-fortis" distinction, but as far as I know that is an unofficial notational convention, not an obvious extension of the IPA's standards. Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 0:47
  • @sumelic I wouldn't go so far as to call <b̥ d̥ g̊> "an unofficial convention". Since the IPA doesn't define the voiceless diacritic as voiceless throughout and defines the default value of each symbol phonologically, it is totally within the confines of the official IPA to use such a notation to represent a partially voiceless segment or a devoiced realization of a phonemically voiced consonant.
    – Nardog
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 0:54

The official chart seems to list the core symbols, to which a number of diacritics can be added, resulting in a fairly complex inventory of symbols. The charts in French or English differ in the number of combinations of core symbols and diacritics. I don't think they differ in their basis and principles.
You can have a look at narrow vs broad transcription. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonetic_transcription#Narrow_versus_broad_transcription

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