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Fingertips Typing Services

Phonetic and Phonemic Transcription

As part of our Phonetic and Phonemic Transcription Services, a phonetic alphabet translator will represent each distinct speech sound with a separate symbol. The most widely accepted system of symbols is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

Fingertips international phonetic alphabet translator services has a team of professional and skilled transcriptionists who will take the utmost care to achieve the highest levels of attention to detail and accuracy in your phonetic and phonemic transcripts.

What is Phonetic Transcription?

Phonetic transcription includes details of the actual pronunciation of specific speech sounds that may not be used for distinguishing words in the language, but which the client nonetheless wishes to document.  Therefore, phonetic transcription relies on the physical characteristics of sounds and not their patterns, unlike phonemic transcription.  The phones (unit of phonetics) are universal and not specific to any language, and a few key areas of phonetics include reduced vowels, aspiration, dentalisation, velarisation and unreleased consonants – these are important in accurate production of English.

What is Phonemic Transcription?

A phonemic transcription, sometimes also known as “broad” transcription, represents each distinct speech sound with a separate symbol. The most widely accepted system of symbols is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). See the phonemic transcription example below:
birthday = /’bɜ:θdeɪ/

Phonemic transcription is an alphabetic system for showing the sounds produced in a particular language, without any extraneous detail.  Everyone pronounces the language differently; but what people hear is a number of ‘meaningful’ sounds, which are called phonemes, and these sounds are distinguishable by native speakers.

For example, ‘bet’ and ‘bed’ have the two sounds ‘t’ and ‘d’ which alter the meaning of the word, thus making them different.  Another example is ‘ton’ and ‘tongue’ or ‘run’ and ‘rung’.  When the sound alters the meaning of the word, it becomes important to allocate separate symbols to make them distinguishable.  For ‘run’ and ‘rung’, the English phonemes /n/ and /ŋ/ are used to tell the sounds apart:  /rʌn/ and /rʌŋ/

Phonemic notation commonly uses IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols that are rather close to the default pronunciation of a phoneme.

Which individuals or institutions require these services?

Phonetic transcripts are very useful for foreign language students and teachers, as well as linguists, speech-language pathologists, lexicographers, translators, singers, actors and constructed language creators.  In each of these fields, careful consideration is given to the way that language is produced.  There is a focus on different speech sounds and a study of pronunciation; phonetic transcription facilitates this.

Types of documents that may require phonetic transcription

  • Essays
  • Books
  • Language textbooks
  • Dictionaries,
  • Song lyrics (classical singers are frequently required to sing in a variety of foreign languages & so they make use of phonetic transcription)

The Difference between phonetic and phonemic transcription, with examples

‘emic’ – what a culture thinks of themselves and how they view themselves (what native speakers use and what most writing systems are based on – phonemic)

‘etic’ – how an outsider views that culture (how we view a foreign language and all the sounds they make.  We record all of those sound changes – phonetic)

Phonetic spelling of words helps us to understand what native speakers are actually saying.  A lot of native speakers don’t even realise they’re producing sounds in certain ways.  [Courtesy of #DailyMIKE 009 “The difference between ‘phonemic’ and ‘phonetic’”]

Example 1:

While the ‘p’ sounds of English pin and spin are pronounced differently (and this difference would be meaningful in some languages), the difference is not meaningful in English. Thus, phonemically the words are usually analysed as /pɪn/ and /spɪn/, with the same phoneme /p/. To capture the difference between them (the allophones of /p/), they can be transcribed phonetically as [pʰɪn] and [spɪn].

Example 2:

There are three ways of representing the word ‘port’:

Written English:

Phonemic transcription: / pɔ:t/
Phonetic transcription: [p ͪ ɔ:t]

In the example of phonemic transcription, we learn that the word ‘port’ contains a silent , and that the vowel is long, denoted by two dots /:/

(Phonemic transcriptions like this appear in most dictionaries and represent a very useful study tool as they provide a lot of information about the pronunciation of the word.)

In the example of phonetic transcription, it’s necessary to look more closely at the pronunciation of each sound, therefore we must aspirate the /p/ sound –

This is shown in the phonetic transcription by [ʰ].  We also notice that the long vowel /ɔ:/ is reduced in length due to the following /t/ sound – we can represent this in a phonetic transcription with one dot instead of two [ˑ]

The difference is in the level of detail – a phonetic transcription contains a lot more information on the speech produced, e.g. characteristics of an accent of a language.

Though the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is designed for transcribing phones, not phonemes, it’s used for phonemic transcription as well. 

(The letter-sound correspondence can be rather loose when the IPA is used for phonemic transcription.)

Why send your phonetic transcription to us?

You can also be assured that once we’ve agreed a deadline we work round the clock to stick to it.

Our transcriptionists are experienced in their field.   Our transcripts are high quality with attention to detail.   We believe our rates are competitive and that we provide an excellent value service.

We also provide phonemic transcription services.

If you require further information on our phonetic transcription services, please do not hesitate to contact us for a quotation.