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After asking this question and learning a lot of facts from comments I got there, I was wondering about the existence of software that transcribes English text into phonetics. I discovered sites such as upodn.com and www.phonetizer.com and software such as PhoTransEdit.

After using them on a few trial sentences, I got slightly differing transcriptions. Are these tools authoritative, and do people have any experience with them? Is there software that also transcribes typical stressing patterns in sentences?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The transcriptions are slightly different, but they're both correct. You'll have to decide which style of transcription you prefer.

Phonetizer appears to be a more phonetic and less phonemic rendering; it marks long vowels, which is a little unusual for American English transcription -- it's not clear just what the vowel length signifies since it's not phonemic. It also distinguishes stressed [ʌ] and ustressed [ə], which are allophonic in American English. Upodn's outputs, by contrast, are closer to phonemic.

Both of them mark word stress, but there is no software that can reliably reproduce sentence stress, since that's not represented in English orthography. Word stress can be marked, because it's unchangeable for each word (a little parsing may be required to distinguish, say, record v. from record n.), but sentence stress is determined by semantics and pragmatics, not phonetics.

Neither of them offers Kenyon and Knott transcription, which has been the standard phonemic transcription of American English for 60 years or so, though several choices are offered.

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Record v./record n. might perhaps be better than address v./address n., as the latter are the same in BrE. –  Andrew Leach Apr 30 '13 at 13:34
    
Thanks, Andrew. –  John Lawler Apr 30 '13 at 13:37
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