I apologize for a diletant question but does "ə" in "piᵊŋ" indicate a secondary articulation? I couldn't find it in the list of "Co-articulation diacritics" on Wikipedia's IPA page. And if so, what's the difference between "piᵊŋ" and "piəŋ"? Is the only difference that native speakers of the language (Taiwanese Hokkien in this case) perceive "iᵊ" as a one sound?

By the way, another source transcribes "ing" ("ping" without the initial "p") as "[iə̯ŋ]".

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  • I think it means that the following consonant is syllabic. Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 16:25
  • @DecapitatedSoul "piᵊŋ" is the word for "ice" in Taiwanese. I should also say that "i"/"iᵊ" in ""piᵊŋ" is pronounced as "iə" (not sure about the details, but it's not the pure "i" as in Mandarin or English), unless the speaker is heavily influenced by Mandarin (in which case they pronounceit as the usuai "i"). That was the reason I thought that "iᵊ" was something like "iə".
    – user31981
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 16:31
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    @DecapitatedSoul I'll read more about syllabic consonants. "ŋ" indeed can be even a single word, but with my current understanding of this notion, "ŋ" isn't syllabic in this case. By the way, another source transcribes "ing" ("ping" without the initial "p") as "[iə̯ŋ]". I just found it, and probably I should add it to the original question.
    – user31981
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 16:51
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    "[iə̯ŋ]", in this case the schwa is non-syllabic (glide). Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 16:54
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    This isn't "in IPA", it's a typesetting thing that a person can do using IPA letters, to assign some special meaning, which one may have to just guess at if the author does not explain. The raised letters ʲ ʷ etc are in IPA.
    – user6726
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


As in a previous question on Glossika's "phonics" line, this is IPA-inspired, but not strictly speaking IPA itself.

A comment above has provided the answer: it represents what could also be transcribed as [iə̯ŋ], where the schwa /ə/ is not syllabic, but an off-glide. Note that the superscript notation for /ᵊ/ (and other superscript vowels) is also possible in the standard for IPA as a glide.

This excrescent schwa is relatively well-known feature in certain varieties of Chinese, especially when there are both rising and falling diphthongs. Although I can only hazard a guess at the writer's aim, the notation does clearly distinguish Standard Taiwanese Mandarin (where 冰 has a monophthong) from Taiwanese Hokkien (where 冰 has a noticeable offglide, a feature it shares with colloquial Beijing Mandarin).

It also makes it obvious to learners; many a learner of Mandarin, when confronted with the highly diphthongised sounds of -ing in Northern Mandarin, fail to recognise it as -ing. This notation also forces learners to be careful of what the nucleus of the vowel is, as that has a bearing on the way tone is carried.

  • So is the only difference between ə̯ and ə that native speakers of Taiwanese perceive iə̯ŋ as one syllable, but the pronunciation of iə̯ŋ and iəŋ is the same? And you mentioned "diphthongised sounds", is iə̯ŋ considered a diphthong?
    – user31981
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 18:59

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