When a text or video about pronunciation is aimed at the average reader, it often doesn't use the IPA to represent sounds. Instead, it might talk about the "AW" sound as in law, the "AH" sound as in father, or the "ZH" sound as in measure. The idea is that the typical English-speaking person will more easily understand AW, AH, and ZH than ɔ, ɑ, and ʒ, respectively.

Such an "intuitive" phonemic transcription system is closely linked to a single language, in this case, English. A native speaker of any other language might have very different ideas as to what AW, AH, or ZH should sound like. Plus, the other language will likely have a different set of phonemes to encode.

Is there an existing database of "intuitive phonemic alphabets" in various languages, such as French, Italian, German, Spanish, or Russian? What I'm looking for are (approximate) mappings from IPA sounds to intuitively understood representations for those languages.

  • They’re normally called phonetic respelling alphabets (or just phonetic respellings). Feb 14, 2021 at 17:14
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    I would think most of them are much simpler than for English, since most orthographies are much more straightforward representations of phonemes than English's is (so if you want to represent a /t/, you just look at that language's standard orthography and find the grapheme that corresponds to /t/). But many languages also have ways of representing phonemes (usually foreign ones) that are never used in native words, like <zh> for /ʒ/ in English, and it certainly would be interesting to find a list or database of those somewhere.
    – Draconis
    Feb 14, 2021 at 18:33
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    @Draconis I’m not sure the last bit is true. Many (most?) marginal phonemes that are only found in loan words are written with ‘regular’ letters cross-linguistically, and readers just have to know that they don’t have their normal value in this case, so in phonetic respelling, they end up being represented by something that’s not part of the standard orthography, like <zh> for English /ʒ/, which is much more commonly written <s si g j>. I have no idea how you’d respell /ɹ/ in languages like French, German, Danish or Spanish whose own <r> represent other sounds, for example. Feb 14, 2021 at 19:01
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Right, that's the sort of thing I'm thinking of: conventions used in foreign transcriptions that are never used in native words. Other examples would be σχ for /ʃ/ in (dialectal) Greek, the geresh in Hebrew, dh for /ð/ in Swahili (depending what you consider "native"), small vowel signs for combinations like /tu/ and /va/ in Japanese, etc. Potentially even ancient examples like how the Hittites wrote foreign /f/ or how the Egyptians wrote foreign/dialectal /l/.
    – Draconis
    Feb 14, 2021 at 19:18
  • The Latin-alphabet transliteration of Devanagari that's used for Hindi is remarkably intuitive; it even preserves vowel length.
    – jlawler
    Feb 15, 2021 at 0:34


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