I am a developer for a Bantu language, Shona to be specific.

Where can I find resources that allow me to learn the IPA for this language.

Is there an IPA alphabet that I can use.

Thank you

  • There is only one IPA strictly speaking. The IPA is one alphabet that can be used for phonetic or (somewhat more arbitrarily) phonemic representations of any human language, or at least that's the goal.
    – LjL
    Jan 9, 2020 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


The Handbook of the IPA is the basic reference source on the IPA, though you can get online copies of the chart which is what most people are satisfied with, e.g. here. You may want to specifically read Alec Pongweni's book Studies in Shona phonetics: an analytic review. It provides various examples in IPA transcription, although it also cites data in orthography and previous transcriptional systems (Doke school). As with all transcriptions, there are controversies of analysis, such as whether orthographic mhuka is [mɦuka] or [m̤uka]. P elects to represent tsv, dzv, sv, zv as [tʂ, dʐ, ʂ, ʐ] which ignores the lip protrusion of those sibilants, but the standard diacritic [ʷ] would also be wrong. There is also a controversy over whether kw, gw should be [kw, gw] or [kʷ, gʷ], P opting for the former. These are details, and as long as you understand that there are areas of controversy, P's book is a good aid in understanding what an IPA transcription of Shona would be.

There is the separate question of what you mean by "Shona". P's data is primarily from the Karanga dialect, with mention of Zezuru. Apart from effects on actual word forms (morphology of the dialects), the dialects differ in exactly how the consonants are pronounced (which is where Doke's book is very useful), and don't bother with tone unless you can focus on a single spoken dialect (Stevick's pan-dialectal tone scheme was cute but does not work).

  • Thank you for the detailed answer. I got some goosebumps from reading your comment. Jan 7, 2020 at 7:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.