Phonetic Notation IPA

laramanlaraman Member
edited July 2018 in Report a bug

Dear Support Manager,

I found a difference in the phonetics for some specific words in gb and us regions, while it should not be.

Using this endpoint:
GET /entries/{source_lang}/{word_id}/regions={region}

When I try the word "cup" in "us" I get the IPA phonetic as /kəp/ while "gb" gives me /kʌp/.

Also this happens for the other words like "butter". "us" gives /bədər/ while "gb" gives /bʌtə/.

Another example : phonetic in "us" region for the word "mother" is /ˈməðər/ while in "gb" response is /ˈmʌðə/.

I tested these words in other online dictionaries and I saw the phonetics of of these words are /ʌ/ instead of /ə/ for both US and UK.

Could you please help me figure out what is happening for these cases with sound /ʌ/ ?

Thank you so much in advance.

Kind Regards,



  • AmosDuveenAmosDuveen Member, Administrator, Moderator admin
    edited July 2018

    Hi @laraman,

    Thanks for your comment, the differences you have noticed are because there are fundamental differences in the way words are pronounced in their respective regions (and, indeed, within their own region but that is a whole new can of worms!).

    The other complicating factor is that the IPA phonetic system is only, at best, a rough guide as to how words are actually pronounced due to the vagaries encountered from one speaker to the next. That means that different publishers will have their own editorial policies, in the same way they do for spelling. This becomes more evident when trying to generalize across large populations of speakers, as dictionaries do. It is likely that this is the reason why you see different interpretations in other publications; no one is wrong or right, they just have slightly different interpretations of which sounds best represent the whole and how those sounds should map onto the available characters.

  • joughtredjoughtred Member, Administrator, Moderator admin

    Hello @laraman,

    In addition to what Amos has mentioned, I've checked with our Head of Pronunciations, who has said:

    Oxford Dictionaries’ transcriptions of British English use the symbol /ʌ/ for the vowel in cup. See the full British model here:

    Our US transcription model, however, uses the symbol /ə/ for the vowel in cup. See the full IPA model here:

    This is not an error, it is done to reflect phonetic difference; the British vowel is typically more retracted and somewhat lower. We are aware that it is a variation from common transcription practice by some American linguists and some other online dictionaries, who use /ʌ/ for both.

    I hope this helps a little!

  • laramanlaraman Member
    edited July 2018

    Dears @AmosDuveen and @joughtred,

    Thank you so much for your help and complete details.

    I checked the aforementioned websites and understood what happens.

    The reason that made me confused is that I have also checked another website of Oxford:

    which shows symbol /ʌ/ for both US and UK in words such as "mother", "cup", etc.

    Which API does this website use for phonetics?

    Kind Regards,

  • AmosDuveenAmosDuveen Member, Administrator, Moderator admin

    Hi @laraman,

    Understood and, yes, I am sure our learners' dictionaries do have a slightly different editorial policy so that will explain the discrepancy.

  • laramanlaraman Member

    Dear @AmosDuveen,

    Thank you so much for your answer.

    As I have investigated I found that non-native English learners are used to the symbol /ʌ/.

    When they see /ˈməðər/ they pronounce it as "mether" not "mother".

    I am worried this policy makes the users confused.

    Best Regards,

  • joughtredjoughtred Member, Administrator, Moderator admin

    Hello @laraman. The API uses the same phonetic data as

    Best wishes,


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