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Why Is This IPA Transcription Different?

Great question. There are a number of reasons why a transcription generated by our IPA transcriber might be different from the way you learned:

First of all, there is often disagreement among experts as to the "correct" pronunciation of certain foreign words. Just like in American English, the pronunciation of a given word may differ considerably depending on what part of the country you are from. Thus, in some cases there is no one correct answer.

Second, there are some words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently. For example, consider the English noun "wind" and the English verb "wind." These "heteronyms" occur in other languages, too, and IPANow! does not distinguish them. (Well, to be fair, the English transcriber recognizes most of these heteronyms and allows the user to choose which transcription to use, but the transcribers for other languages don't do that as of the date of this blog post.)

Third, there are some instances in which a particular musical setting may alter the way a text is sung. In one composer's text setting, the rhythmic values applied to each text syllable may differ from another composer's setting, resulting in subtle differences in pronunciation. The sound [i] might become [j], or the sound [u] might become [w] in a particular setting. Further, in some cases the tessitura may affect whether a vowel should be sung more open or closed. In these instances, you may need to edit the default output of IPANow! Online.

Finally, the task of transcribing foreign languages into phonetic symbols is no simple task, even for a computer. We concede that IPANow! is not an absolutely perfect program. . .but we think we're pretty close. Long story short, you may have to do a bit of manual editing afterwards depending on your specific needs. But certainly if you find a word or words that you know IPANow! is transcribing incorrectly, please contact us so we can correct it.

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