Phonetic Fonts Page

Bruce Hayes
Department of Linguistics

This page used to get thousands of hits, back when it was much harder to use phonetic fonts.  Fortunately, things have gotten much easier.

First, ordinary operating systems comes preequipped with fonts that largely cover the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is the international standard for phonetic transcription. See the IPA webpage for detailed information about their system and about the particular fonts they use.

Second, nowadays all phonetic fonts are part of the Unicode system, which provides each phonetic symbol with a unique code, and permits you to switch the phonetic font to one of your preference.

I haven't deleted this page, though, because there are two perhaps-useful items I can share:  inserting the symbols with your word processor, and changing fonts.

I welcome feedback on how to improve this page:

Inserting the Symbols with your Word Processor

In Word, you click as follows:  Insert, Symbols, More Symbols, IPA Extensions.  Find your symbol (be persistent!) and either double click or click the Insert button.  Word will insert the symbol and the cursor, and also remember what you did and put the symbol on the list of recently used symbols, saving future clicks.

The symbols seems to be listed in quasi-alphabetical order, based on resemblance to real letters.  Sometimes you have to find what you are looking for outside the IPA region of the popup list.  A lovely book by Geoffrey Pullum and Wiliam Ladusaw, Phonetic Symbol Guide, can help here, since it identifies the symbols within the theory of typography (for instance, you can avoid using a German "ess-zet" instead of the correct Greek beta).

The system in Word is very bad, but you can improve on it if every time you use a phonetic symbol you will place it on a shortcut key (click the Shortcut Key button to do this).

In choosing shortcut keys, I like to use a two-keystroke mnemonic system.  Thus, for the IPA "snake" symbol that represents the sound of the letter sequence "sh", I use Ctr Alt Shift s, h.  Similarly, the a-e digraph for the vowel of "cat" is Ctr Alt Shift a, e.  But you can also use simpler keystrokes for the most common symbols, so for instance I use Ctr e for schwa (note:  this sacrifices whatever Ctr e does in Word, so make sure you aren't discarding something you really want).

If you set up all your symbols this way, eventually, you'll remember most of your shortcuts and be able to word-process phonetic symbols fairly fluently.

Your shortcuts will all be lost when you change computers, unless you retain and move a special file that retains them, called normal.dotm. Use a search engine to ask "where does normal.dotm go on my computer?", both for your old computer and your new one.

Using different fonts

While the symbols on your own computer's font inventory will probably suffice, you can get more flexibility if you like with other Unicode fonts.  Try the IPA website, linked above, as well as the fonts provided by the Summer Institute of Linguistics

New fonts need to be downloaded and installed on your computer. This is not hard, though the procedure changes over time.  I suggest you enter "download install font" on your search engine.

                   Doulos SIL
                   Charis SIL

Doulos SIL

My current favorite SIL font is Doulos SIL, available for download from the SIL.  This font roughly matches the Times New Roman font that many people use for their word processing.

Charis SIL

Available for free download from the SIL.

Not a match for Times New Roman, but attractive in its own way.

Gentium plus

Yet another Unicode font that you can download from SIL.   

The appearance of the font is unusual.  I find it very beautiful, but as a result it calls attention to itself (and thus, away from the author's writing).  These are matters of personal choice.

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Last updated January 23, 2021