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Man's fear of ideas is probably the greatest dike holding back human knowledge and happiness.
Morris L. Ernst
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Entries in the English Wiktionary may contain a Pronunciation section to indicate phonetic and phonological details of the headword.

Phonetics and phonology

Most of the differences in the pronunciation across dialects is phonetic rather than phonemic in nature. Phonetic details indicate the physical sounds of the headword. Phonetic transcriptions are given within square brackets and are often for a particular dialect, indicated by an accent tag (e.g. {{a|US}}, {{a|UK}}, {{a|RP}}, {{a|Australia}}, {{a|Canada}}, {{a|Ireland}}).

The IPA symbols listed in w:IPA chart for English dialects are often used for phonetic transcriptions in English entries. Examples for free, pin, and better follow:

  • (UK) IPA: [fɹiː]
  • (US) IPA: [fɻi]
  • (Scotland) IPA: [fɾiː]
  • (Cajun English) IPA: [fʁiː]
  • (Welsh English) IPA: [friː]
  • IPA: [pʰɪn]
  • (US) IPA: [ˈbɛ.ɾɚ]
  • (UK) IPA: [ˈbɛt.ə], (before a vowel) [ˈbɛt.əɹ]
  • (Australia) IPA: [ˈbe̞.ɾə]

By contrast, phonemic transcriptions, given within slashes, indicate the sounds of the headword in a mostly dialect-neutral way using phonemes for a particular language. Phonemically, the most significant accent groups are rhotic and non-rhotic. Most English terms have only one phonemic transcription. For example, the standard US pronunciation of law usually has a short [ɔ] sound while the standard UK pronunciation nearly always has a long [ɔː] sound, but neither dialect distinguishes phonemically between long [ɔː] and short [ɔ]. So, the only phonemic transcription given is /lɔː/, optionally supplemented by phonetic transcriptions to show details like vowel length.

Where it is necessary to illustrate a phonemic distinction between accents, the following accent tags can be used to clarify the major variation of English to which a phonemic transcription applies:

  • {{a|rhotic}}: In rhotic accents of English, written <r> is pronounced in all positions as /ɹ/.
  • {{a|non-rhotic}}: In non-rhotic accents of English, [ɹ] does not appear in the syllable coda but is typically pronounced if it is followed by a vowel sound. Thus, the it may or may not be pronounced at the end of a word, depending on context, so final <r> in non-rhotic accents is transcribed phonemically as /(ɹ)/.
  • {{a|bad-lad-split}}: In Australian English and some varieties of British English, there is a phonemic distinction between the long /æː/ of terms like bad and the short /æ/ of terms like lad.
  • {{a|bad-lad-merger}}: In most varieties of English, there is no phonemic distinction between short [æ] and long [æː]. The phoneme for standard English is always given as /æ/.

In the examples below for free, pin, and better, detailed sound qualities that are not important distinctions within English are ignored. However, a distinction is drawn between rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciations, as described above:

In phonemic transcriptions, it is important to choose from a consistent set of IPA symbols, such as those listed at w:Help:IPA for English, in order to avoid making unintended claims about what sounds are phonemically contrastive in English. If there is any doubt about whether a particular sound is phonemically contrastive in English or in any particular dialect, it is best to use phonetic transcription, given in square brackets.

Section layout and templates

A typical pronunciation section may look like the following example based on the word portmanteau:

* {{a|rhotic}} {{IPA|/poɹtˈmanto/}}
* {{a|non-rhotic}} {{IPA|/poːtˈmanto/}}
* {{a|UK}} {{IPA|[pɔːtˈmantəʊ]}}, {{SAMPA|[pO:t"m{nt@U]}}
* {{a|US}} {{IPA|[pɔɹtˈmæntoʊ]]}}, {{SAMPA|[pOrt"m{ntoU]}}
* {{audio|en-us-Portmanteau.ogg|Audio (US)}}

The region or accent [(UK), (US), (Australia), et al.] is first if there is regional variation, followed by the pronunciation system (such as IPA, SAMPA, or enPR), a colon, then the pronunciation; the templates {{a}}, {{IPA}}, {{SAMPA}}, and {{enPR}} do this automatically.

Phonemic transcriptions are placed between diagonal strokes (/.../), while phonetic transcriptions are placed between square brackets ([...]); these must be done manually within the template, since the templates can be used both for phonemic and for phonetic transcriptions. enPR pronunciations should not have diagonals or brackets, as their purpose is to be simple, and further, enPR is a phonemic system, so diagonals are redundant and brackets incorrect.

Pronunciations should be given in the order: enPR, IPA, SAMPA; enPR is often given only for the US pronunciation, as such systems are more common in the US than in the UK.

Ad hoc transcription

While there is a natural bias in favour of established systems of pronunciation, it is not wrong to use an arbitrary representation if that’s all you know and there is an important point to be made. For the word reject, one could have /RE-ject/ and /re-JECT/ to make the important distinction between the pronunciations of the noun and verb forms. It may not be standard, but neither is it wrong. Whenever possible, however, such ad hoc pronunciations should be replaced with one in an unambiguous system, such as IPA.

Ideally, every entry should have a pronunciation section, and perhaps a sound sample to accompany it. However, pronunciations vary widely between dialects, and non-linguists often have trouble writing down pronunciations properly. UK English pronunciations should give the Received Pronunciation of the entry.

Request pronunciation

You can use the template {{rfp}} to request a pronunciation in a Wiktionary entry.

Additional items


As per Rhymes:English and w:Rhyme#Rhyme in English, "Two words are rhymes if:

  • they are stressed on the same syllable, counting from the end of the words, and
  • are pronounced identically from the vowel in their stressed syllable to the end."

Add a link to the page in the "Rhymes" namespace that lists the rhymes for the word. Do not list the rhymes themselves on the page you are editing. So, for example, on the entry for hat, add the line

:* {{rhymes|æt}}

to the entry. This links to the page Rhymes:English:-æt and displays the text:

The {{rhymes}} template saves you some typing and makes the IPA display correctly. This template also accepts an optional argument to specify the language for non-English rhymes. See Template talk:rhymes for documentation and use instructions.


List any homophones of the word in alphabetical order, wikifying each one. For example, the Pronunciation section of the English word right contains the line

* Homophones: [[rite]], [[wright]], [[write]]

which results in

which are the English words that sound identical to right.

If a word is a homophone in a particular dialect of English, it may be added provided the dialect is referred to (for example, ride is a homophone of right in accents with flapping, and beater is a homophone of beta in non-rhotic accents). Examples (for beater and right, respectively):

The following must not be added to the homophones section:

  • Words that are “nearly” homophones or rhymes (for example, for right, the words white or light);
  • Words that are homophones if they are mispronounced in some way (eg, for miss, the word myth when pronounced with a lisp);
  • Foreign words. These are unlikely to be true homophones (eg, Italian tipi (types) is not a homophone of English tepee; the sounds of the vowels and consonants are similar but different).

(Note that the term used here is homophone; the term homonym used by some is ambiguous as it can mean either "homophone" or "homograph".)


Hyphenation describes how a word is broken across line breaks. It is a question of typography, of formatting printed or screen display of a word for aesthetic reasons. Hyphenation is not always the same in the United States and the United Kingdom (see hyphenation algorithm.); British hyphenation more often considers word etymologies, whereas American English hyphenation more often follows syllabification.

Hyphenation is distinct from syllabification, which is how a word is broken into spoken syllables, although these two issues are often conflated. Hyphenation is a property of written words, but syllabification is a property of spoken words. Although both properties break words into portions, the placement of the breaks is not always at the same location. For example, when the word inexorably is broken for hyphenation, it is broken in any one of the following places indicated: in·ex·o·ra·bly. When the same word is spoken, it is broken at every place indicated in the pronunciation: /ɪˈnɛk.sər.ə.bli/. Notice also that, in many words, the syllable breaks do not occur in the same location as the hyphenation breaks. For example, the word hunter is hyphenated in writing as hunt·er, but is broken into spoken syllables as IPA: /ˈhʌn.tə(ɹ)/. In the case of inexorably, the first two breaks occur in different locations depending on the kind of break made. The first hyphenation break occurs after the n, but the first syllable break occurs before the n, and the second syllabification break actually occurs in the middle of pronouncing the letter x!

In Wiktionary, both syllabification and hyphenation are listed in the pronunciation section. List hyphenation using interpuncts (·) U+00B7, or hyphenation points (‧) U+2027. The template {{hyphenation}} does this easily. For example, on the entry for measure, the line:

* {{hyphenation|mea|sure}}


  • Hyphenation: mea‧sure

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