International Phonetic Alphabet

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Literary phonetics

  • Leopold Bloom's cat in the opening scene of Part II of James Joyce's Ulysses mews with increasing insistence as she demands her bowl of milk: Mkgnao ... Mrkgnao ... Mrkrgnao. In IPA one might transcibe these sounds as mkɲaʊ ... mʴkɲaʊ ... mʴkʴɲaʊ. Judging by the spelling the cat seems to have spent some time in Italy.

  • Hogo à gogo: Raymond Queneau's 1959 novel Zazie dans le métro (film version by Louis Malle) opens with the remarkable word Doukipudonktan. This is in fact the phonemic transcription of the sentence D'où qu'ils puent donc tant? (What makes them stink so much? ~ What a stench!). Queneau's version (note the unFrench ks) is very close to the IPA, which would be dukipydɔ̃ktɑ̃.

    Queneau's spelling has been referred to as a precursor of today's SMS text-messages.


IPA in Unicode by Prof John Wells: gives full details, including information on how to download the necessary fonts.