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How Do I Choose the Best Phonetic Transcription Dictionary?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Phonetic transcription involves transforming the sounds made in speech into a recognizable alphabet of symbols. It offers individuals a concrete, visible method for understanding sound, and many dictionary devices claim to translate everyday words and phrases into phonetic transcription. The easier-to-use phonetic transcription dictionaries often use the International Phonetic Alphabet, since this is a globally recognized phonetic standard. Comprehensiveness and convenience are important factors when choosing a phonetic transcription dictionary, so the following features will likely be included: narrow transcription, language differentiation features, recognizable symbols, and electronic services. If you prefer, you may choose a more all-purpose dictionary that has definitions as well as phonetic transcription.

A comprehensive phonetic transcription dictionary will likely use the International Phonetic Alphabet as a template. This global phonetic language has gained widespread recognition from professionals. It was developed by the International Phonetic Association, and it is used in classrooms, in linguistic study organizations, and in the offices of physicians who specialize in speech problems. The alphabet was designed as a uniform and universal representative of common sounds across cultures.

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Subtle differences between pronunciations of words in different dialects can best be cataloged with a phonetic transcription dictionary that offers narrow transcription. This type of transcription catalogs the finest details of an utterance and offers variations of how the sound may be pronounced. Broad transcription, on the other hand, offers a more general overview of how sounds are pronounced. For the beginner, broad transcription may be best, but for those who desire a more thorough scholarly study, narrow transcription is preferable.

Easily recognizable phonetic transcription symbols should also be a component of good phonetic transcription dictionaries. The transcription itself is often placed in brackets, and stress marks that indicate emphasis are also important. A thorough phonetic transcription dictionary will have a greater catalog of symbols in order to provide precise pronunciations. Further, different marks may indicate transcription differences in various languages as well. For example, Chinese transcription is often known as romanization.

In addition to providing information on various languages, a phonetic transcription dictionary might also be packaged as part of a regular dictionary with definitions. Keep in mind, however, that precision can be better achieved in a solo phonetic transcription dictionary because of its specialization. A specialized dictionary can provide information on more words because it has more room than a general dictionary. The publishers and makers of a phonetic transcription dictionary are also more likely to be experts in phonetic studies.

For quick and detailed results, the purchaser might want to consider an electronic transcription dictionary. These devices hold more information and may offer routine installations that will update any major changes in phonetic understanding. Electronic dictionaries may also offer audio capabilities so that a user can hear examples of pronunciations. Plentiful online consumer and expert reviews are perhaps more obtainable for electronic devices as well.

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