Phonetic Spelling: Types and Uses of Phonetic Spelling in English

Phonetic Spelling in English! Spelling is one of the more difficult parts of learning a new language. There are many spelling rules and special cases that make it hard to spell correctly. Words often sound very different from the way in which they are written. This makes both speaking and writing a difficult challenge. Many people use a form of writing called phonetic spelling to better reflect the spoken language. Phonetic spelling is a very useful tool for anyone learning a new language, as well as for native speakers to learn new names and vocabulary.

Phonetic Spelling

English Phonetics

Phonetics is part of a larger field of study called phonology. Phonology studies how words are pronounced in order to determine standardization and how accents vary from region to region. As with many languages, English has a wide range of dialects. American English differs from British English, and both differ from Australian English. Within these dialects, there are even more accents and variations of pronunciation. Phonology helps to preserve language pronunciation and study how it evolves and varies.

As an auditory quality of language, pronunciation is one of the most difficult things to preserve. Scholars still debate how ancient peoples pronounced their words. Phonetics is an important element of phonology that helps to document these aspects of speaking and make pronunciation tangible. It also helps facilitate communication between cultures by clarifying the meanings of words when they do vary.

Types of Phonetic Spelling

Phonetics focuses on how humans communicate through speech, or signing in the case of sign language. Before modern recording tools like microphones were available, phoneticians used systems to transcribe speech sounds in order to preserve and study data. These systems evolved into phonetic dictionaries and alphabets. The two main types of phonetic spelling are the Americanist Phonetic Notation and the International Phonetic Alphabet. These are complex systems with their own unique alphabets that professional phoneticians still use today.

  • The Americanist Phonetic Notation was originally created to transcribe indigenous languages. This alphabet was developed specifically for indigenous peoples of the Americas and Europe, but it has become useful for phoneticians studying languages outside of these areas as well. The symbols in Americanist Phonetic Notation are taken from both Greek and Latin.
  • More commonly used than the Americanist Phonetic Notation is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). While both systems translate speech sounds into symbols, the IPA only uses Latin symbols. It was first developed in the 19th century and is still used today. Both alphabets, but mainly IPA, are used by phoneticians, as well as by actors, singers, and public speakers to improve their articulation. It is also used in some advanced forms of language teaching to help students with their pronunciation and fluency.

Both of these two main types of phonetics are complex, and their rules are not always set in stone. Phoneticians have on occasion reviewed and amended these systems as the field evolves. More commonly, phonetic spelling is used by new English learners to learn pronunciation. For this use of phonetics, there is no special system or lexicon of symbols. Rather, the standard English alphabet is used to sound out each word.

Phonetic spelling is a straightforward, useful tool that can help improve speaking and make new learners more confident. The technical description of phonetic spelling is a one-to-one relationship between the way a word is articulated and the way it is written. These two forms of the word are called the phonemes, which is the spoken form, and the graphemes, or the written form. In the case of phonetic spelling, the graphemes is dictated by the phonemes, meaning the way the word is written is determined by the way it is spoken.

Examples of Phonetic Spelling

Writing using phonetic spelling is a good exercise to remember how a word is pronounced. As such, phonetic spelling is often for personal use. Many students find phonetic spelling to be very useful in note-taking in order to clarify names or difficult new vocabulary. Take, for example, the word “banana.” When written, it may be difficult to know which A to emphasize. With phonetic spelling, the word would be “buh-nAn-uh.” This tells you that the emphasis is on the second A, which is pronounced as a hard A, while the first and last are pronounced like the sound “uh.” Similarly, the word “hog” would be written as “hagh.” “Potato” would be “puh-tei-tow,” “grocery” would be “grow-sr-ee,” and “education” would be “eh-juh-kei-shn.”

One of the benefits of phonetic spelling is that it is easy to use for all levels of learning. New English speakers can benefit from the straightforward breaking down of words into their sounds, and advanced or native speakers can improve their fluency and add new or uncommon vocabulary words. There are many tools online to become more familiar with phonetic speaking, including some that have the option to pronounce words out loud so you can further solidify the information.

Phonetic Spelling vs Phonetic Pronunciation

While phonetic spelling transcribes spoken language into written words, phonetic pronunciation is useful to help remember how to spell difficult words. Phonetic pronunciation is the act of saying words as they are written, not as they should sound. The goal is to teach people learning English how to spell a word that has silent letters. The word “subtle,” for example, would be pronounced “sub-” “-tle” in phonetic pronunciation in order to emphasize the silent B. Another common example of phonetic pronunciation is the word “Wednesday.” As written in its grapheme, Wednesday looks like it would be pronounced different from it actually is. With phonetic pronunciation, “Wednesday” is “Wed-nes-day.” The S is pronounced even though it is actually silent.

Learning a new language is a challenging task that takes time and patience. There are many resources available to learn and practice a new language, and phonetic spelling is a great option. Speaking is one of the more intimidating aspects of language learning. Practicing phonetic spelling can help you remember the pronunciation of difficult words and increase your confidence. Even for native speakers, phonetic spelling is a useful skill to use to improve your vocabulary and communication skills.

Phonetic Spelling Infographic

Phonetic Spelling