Phonetics is the branch of linguistics that examines sounds in a language. Phonetics describes these sounds using the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
The IPA uses a single symbol to describe each sound in a language. If a letter in a word is silent, there will be no IPA symbol used in the transcription.
The IPA can be helpful for studying a language, especially languages that use letters that are silent or have multiple pronunciations. Languages like Arabic and Spanish are consistant in their spelling and pronunciation – each letter represents a single sound which rarely varies. English is different. It has many letters with two or more sounds and many letters that are silent.
This website uses the IPA to demonstrate how certain words are pronounced. To learn specifics about English phonetics and pronunciation, go to the lessons below.