English Pronouncing Dictionary

Last updated

The English Pronouncing Dictionary (EPD) was created by the British phonetician Daniel Jones and was first published in 1917. [1] It originally comprised over 50,000 headwords listed in their spelling form, each of which was given one or more pronunciations transcribed using a set of phonemic symbols based on a standard accent. The dictionary is now in its 18th edition. John C. Wells has written of it "EPD has set the standard against which other dictionaries must inevitably be judged". [2]



The precursor to the English Pronouncing Dictionary was A Phonetic Dictionary of the English Language by Hermann Michaelis and Daniel Jones, [3] [4] published in Germany in 1913. In this work, the headwords of the dictionary were listed in phonemic transcription, followed by their spelling form, so the user needed to be aware of the phonemic composition of a word, in order to discover its spelling. A typical entry, given as an example in the preface, was eksplə'neiʃən 'explanation'. The user therefore had to have recognized the phoneme sequence /eksplə'neiʃən/, before they could discover the spelling form of the word. This format did not find favour and a German-British work was in any case not likely to do well at the time of the First World War. [5]

In 2015 an electronic version of the 18th edition appeared: this is an app available for use on Apple's iPhone and iPad, sold through the Apple iStore. [8] An Android version appeared in 2017. [9]

Model accent

All editions have been based on a single accent (or a single American and a single British accent in the case of the 15th to 18th editions). The American accent is named GA (General American), but the British standard accent has been given different names at different times.

Transcription conventions

In all editions the transcription used is essentially phonemic, but the symbols and the conventions for their use have varied from time to time.

Audio material

At the time of the publication of the 16th edition, a CD-ROM disk (compatible with Windows but not with Apple computers) was produced which contains the full contents of the dictionary together with a recording of each headword, in British and American pronunciation. The recorded pronunciations can be played by clicking on a loudspeaker icon. A "sound search" facility is included to enable users to search for a particular phoneme or sequence of phonemes. Most of the recordings were made by actors or editorial staff. The recordings were completely revised for the 18th edition.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daniel Jones (phonetician)</span> British phonetician (1881–1967)

Daniel Jones was a London-born British phonetician who studied under Paul Passy, professor of phonetics at the École des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne. He was head of the Department of Phonetics at University College, London.

Received Pronunciation (RP) is the accent traditionally regarded as the standard and most prestigious form of spoken British English. For over a century, there has been argument over such questions as the definition of RP, whether it is geographically neutral, how many speakers there are, whether sub-varieties exist, how appropriate a choice it is as a standard and how the accent has changed over time. The name itself is controversial. RP is an accent, so the study of RP is concerned only with matters of pronunciation; other areas relevant to the study of language standards such as vocabulary, grammar and style are not considered.

Estuary English is an English accent associated with the area along the River Thames and its estuary, including London. Phonetician John C. Wells proposed a definition of Estuary English as "Standard English spoken with the accent of the southeast of England". He views Estuary English as an emerging standard accent of England: an "intermediate" between the 20th-century higher-class non-regional standard accent, Received Pronunciation, and the 20th-century lower-class local London accent, Cockney. There is some debate among linguists as to where Cockney speech ends and Estuary English begins.

Phonetic transcription is the visual representation of speech sounds by means of symbols. The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Close central unrounded vowel</span> Vowel sound

The close central unrounded vowel, or high central unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in some languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɨ⟩, namely the lower-case letter i with a horizontal bar. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as barred i.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Close central rounded vowel</span> Vowel sound

The close central rounded vowel, or high central rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ʉ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is }. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as "barred u".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open-mid back unrounded vowel</span> Vowel sound

The open-mid back unrounded vowel or low-mid back unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ʌ⟩, graphically a rotated lowercase "v", even though some vendors display it as a real turned v. Both the symbol and the sound are commonly referred to as a "wedge", "caret" or "hat". In transcriptions for English, this symbol is commonly used for the near-open central unrounded vowel and in transcriptions for Danish, it is used for the open back rounded vowel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John C. Wells</span> British phonetician

John Christopher Wells is a British phonetician and Esperantist. Wells is a professor emeritus at University College London, where until his retirement in 2006 he held the departmental chair in phonetics.

Like many other languages, English has wide variation in pronunciation, both historically and from dialect to dialect. In general, however, the regional dialects of English share a largely similar phonological system. Among other things, most dialects have vowel reduction in unstressed syllables and a complex set of phonological features that distinguish fortis and lenis consonants.

In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived length of a vowel sound: the corresponding physical measurement is duration. In some languages vowel length is an important phonemic factor, meaning vowel length can change the meaning of the word, for example in: Arabic, Estonian, Finnish, Fijian, Kannada, Malayalam, Japanese, Latin, Old English, Scottish Gaelic, and Vietnamese. While vowel length alone does not change word meaning in most dialects of English, it is said to do so in a few dialects, such as Australian English, Lunenburg English, New Zealand English, and South African English. It also plays a lesser phonetic role in Cantonese, unlike in other varieties of Chinese.

Stress is a prominent feature of the English language, both at the level of the word (lexical stress) and at the level of the phrase or sentence (prosodic stress). Absence of stress on a syllable, or on a word in some cases, is frequently associated in English with vowel reduction – many such syllables are pronounced with a centralized vowel (schwa) or with certain other vowels that are described as being "reduced". Various phonological analyses exist for these phenomena.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A. C. Gimson</span> English phonetician

Alfred Charles "Gim" Gimson was an English phonetician.

A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, also referred to as Kenyon and Knott, was first published by the G. & C. Merriam Company in 1944, and written by John Samuel Kenyon and Thomas A. Knott. It provides a phonemic transcription of General American pronunciations of words, using symbols largely corresponding to those of the IPA. A similar work for English pronunciation is the English Pronouncing Dictionary by Daniel Jones, originally published in 1917 and available in revised editions ever since.

There are a variety of pronunciations in modern English and in historical forms of the language for words spelled with the letter ⟨a⟩. Most of these go back to the low vowel of earlier Middle English, which later developed both long and short forms. The sound of the long vowel was altered in the Great Vowel Shift, but later a new long A developed which was not subject to the shift. These processes have produced the main four pronunciations of ⟨a⟩ in present-day English: those found in the words trap, face, father and square. Separate developments have produced additional pronunciations in words like wash, talk and comma.

This chart shows the most common applications of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to represent English language pronunciations.

Most dialects of modern English have two close back vowels: the near-close near-back rounded vowel found in words like foot, and the close back rounded vowel found in words like goose. The STRUT vowel, which historically was back, is often central as well. This article discusses the history of these vowels in various dialects of English, focusing in particular on phonemic splits and mergers involving these sounds.

In English phonology, t-glottalization or t-glottalling is a sound change in certain English dialects and accents, particularly in the United Kingdom, that causes the phoneme to be pronounced as the glottal stop (listen) in certain positions. It is never universal, especially in careful speech, and it most often alternates with other allophones of such as [t] ,, ,, or.

A pronunciation respelling for English is a notation used to convey the pronunciation of words in the English language, which does not have a phonemic orthography.

A lexical set is a group of words that all fall under a single category based on a single shared phonological feature.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Near-close near-back rounded vowel</span> Vowel sound

The near-close near-back rounded vowel, or near-high near-back rounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in some vocal languages. The IPA symbol that represents this sound is ⟨ʊ⟩. It is informally called "horseshoe u". Prior to 1989, there was an alternative IPA symbol for this sound, ⟨ɷ⟩, called "closed omega"; use of this symbol is no longer sanctioned by the IPA. In Americanist phonetic notation, the symbol ⟨⟩ is used. Sometimes, especially in broad transcription, this vowel is transcribed with a simpler symbol ⟨u⟩, which technically represents the close back rounded vowel.


  1. Jones, Daniel (1917). English Pronouncing Dictionary. Dent.
  2. Wells, John (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. p. ix. ISBN   978-1-4058-8118-0.
  3. Michaelis, H. and D. Jones (1913). A Phonetic Dictionary of the English Language. Hanover/Berlin: Carl Meyer.
  4. "Hannover: Carl Meyer; New York: G. E. Stechert & Co., 1913."
  5. Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger (1999). The Real Professor Higgins . Mouton de Gruyter. pp.  164. ISBN   978-3-11-015124-4.
  6. Wells, John C. (23 December 2000). "My personal history". Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  7. Jones, Daniel; Roach, Peter; Setter, Jane; Esling, John (2011). Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (18th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-15255-6.
  8. Cambridge University Press. "Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary on the App Store". Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  9. "Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  10. Wells, J.C. "English Pronunciation and its Dictionary Representation" (PDF). Pergamon/British Council ELT Documents. Pergamon. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.