Are there any other graphic systems that attempt to be as complete as the International Phonetic Alphabet?


7 Answers 7



In addition there are phonetic notations that are designed with one language or group of languages in mind, for example Romaji for Japanese, pinyin for Chinese languages, and the many pronunciation respelling for English.

  • +1 @Louis Rhys: Thanks, it's been awhile, forgot about SAMPA, which in turn lead me to the Wiki page for Phonetic_transcription - guess I'm really looking for something that's not base on IPA though.
    – blunders
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 2:28
  • APA is not based on IPA. The wikipedia page you linked also mention the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 2:38
  • SAMPA is a bit confusing really. It's actually multiple related phonemic alphabets for various languages. It does not try to represent all sounds in all languages. For that there is its cousins X-SAMPA. A lot of people are confused by this for obvious reasons. Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 13:46
  • By the way, is Americanist the same as Kirschenbaum which I've seen references to somewhere or other? Commented Sep 23, 2011 at 21:22
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    @hippietrail according to wikipedia Kirschenbaum is just a mapping of IPA so that people can type it easily using a normal keyboard..
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Sep 24, 2011 at 4:44

The Finno-Ugric Transcription, a.k.a. the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet is comparably complete to IPA and much more regular and flexible.

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    @Alenanno: please do not edit my posts in a way that changes their meaning. I most definitely do not think that IPA is more regular or flexible than FUT. Just the opposite. Also, whether it is that or not is not a matter of my belief. FUT is objectively more regular than IPA; it is enough to just look at how they're constructed. And greater regularity gives FUT greater flexibility. I don't see why you should put the "I think" bit in my mouth. BTW, why was it wrong to offer a draft of my paper?
    – kamil-s
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 0:40
  • You said "objectively", who said it? As far as I know, you're the only and first one who said this, and that's why I added the "I think" part. Your answer makes it seem as it's an objective fact, while it's not. If you can prove it's objective, then expand your answer, otherwise I'll have no choice but re-edit it. I removed that part as it was not part of the answer but a personal comment.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 0:43
  • The "I think" bit isn't really important to me, you can re-edit it and I won't protest again. It was the "to IPA and" > "to IPA which" that I objected to. My paper discusses various transcription systems, their built and usability for different purposes, so actually it was a part of the answer, not a personal comment. At any rate, FUT is objectively more regular than IPA, never mind who said it first and that you missed him or her saying it. Study the construction of FUT and compare it to the construction of IPA. (Only please use a decent source like Setälä 1901 or [continued in the next post]
    – kamil-s
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 0:57
  • [continued] Sovijärvi/Peltola 1977 rather than Wikipedia.) You will see that FUT is based on a relatively small number of letters to which diacritics are attached in a regular manner to adjust their meaning, and that the function of each diacritic is defined and constant. Now compare this to IPA where it is virtually impossible to say what modification of the shape of a letter means what and with what symbol any phonetic feature is recorded. This is what I mean by "greater regularity", and I really can't see how this is a personal, subjective opinion.
    – kamil-s
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 1:01
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    If that was what you objected to, why didn't you just fix that instead of reverting the edit? Second, if you propose here parts of your paper and then link to it, that's OK, but if you say "I wrote a paper here, email me for info", then it's not OK. That's the difference. About the UPA/FUT, I gave it a look, and as it says, it looks like a transcription system rather than a phonetic alphabet; not to mention it's used predominantly for Uralic languages, while IPA is universal.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 1:25

I hope that this thread is not too dead, but I'd like to add IKPA - International Korean Phonetic Alphabet. It's based on Hangeul, so is mostly featural.


There is the Universal Phonetic Alphabet. I tried to post this some time ago, but couldn't find the link. Here it is; https://omniglot.com/conscripts/upa.htm

  • Very interesting proposal in fact! It looks like it follows (kind of) and (much) further expands on the spirit of Tolkien's Tengwar script.
    – Hvjurthuk
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 0:38
  • I haven't invested a lot of time in Tolkien's work, I hadn't seen a connection. Perhaps I should reconsider, it wasn't my intent to post fictional content.
    – taupist
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 17:52

Visible Speech (1869) by Aleander Meville Bell and Standard Alphabet (1855) by Lepsius, whom Bell fit his characters on top of. Both systems are fully capable of expressing all of the phonemic distinctions that IPA does. If you would like primarily Latin based with Greek characters to supplement I would recommend Standard Alphabet. If you would like a character system that attempts to symbolize the organs used, Visible Speech does that. The Visible Speech vowel system is actually more complete than IPA, having 36 vowels instead of 28. Lepsius demonstrates how the Standard Alphabet maps to an exhaustive list of world languages at the end of his book. Bell has some examples of his system used in German, French, Cockney, American, and Gaelic. Since Bell's systems is based on Lepsius the mapping to world languages applies equally to his.


I have created a Unicode phonetic alphabet that I personally think is even better than the IPA.

It is the result of many hours of work on my behalf.

You can find the documentation on how to use it here: https://github.com/SalviaSage/Translingual-Phonetic-Alphabet

I update this page as I develop the alphabet further.

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    Welcome to Linguistics! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. Otherwise, once the linked page gets moved or removed (e.g. if you move from GitHub or rename the project), your entire answer render invalid. Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 18:43
  • I am actually interested in/intrigued by your answer. Could you actually develop it further here as @bytebuster suggests instead of just sending us outside via simple link? What are the distinctive features of this phonetic alphabet?
    – Hvjurthuk
    Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 0:33
  • Hi there. Thanks for your interest in my phonetic alphabet. I designed it because I believed the IPA wasn't good enough and that certain parts of it was wrong. For example, my alphabet has a different vowel system which I'm convinced is more factual. It has specific letters for affricates (IPA uses two letters as plosive+fricative.) Also, it can be typed using a keyboard, has a 3 tone distinction instead of 5 and other things. Contact me on Discord if you want to learn more.
    – Salvia
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 7:01

Here's another option: the Musa Alphabet. It's not based on the Roman alphabet at all, which leads to less confusion and clearer features. You can read all about it at www.musa.bet. And here's a page where Musa is directly compared to the IPA: musa.bet/ipa.

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