In the word 'cartoon', sound is /kɑːtuːn/

word has two syllables, kɑː and tuːn and the syllable tuːn is stressed.

But the online dictionaries don't show the dot (.) between these two syllables. but stress mark is marked for the syllable tuːn.

Could anyone tell me why there is no dot (.) between the two syllables kɑː and tuːn.

  • Is it /kɑːˈtuːn/ or /kɑːtuːn/? In IPA, if you put a stress mark between the syllables, you don't use a dot. Jan 4, 2015 at 4:54
  • 1
    There are certain transcription schemes which mark syllables with a dot, but many that don't.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 4, 2015 at 11:53
  • IPA generally only uses the syllable separator where there is ambiguity or if talking specifically about where to separate syllables. In this word, there is no ambiguity, since in most dialects of English, neither /kɑː.ˈrtuːn/ nor /kɑːrt.ˈuːn/ is phonotactically valid. Mar 9, 2015 at 14:05

2 Answers 2


In standard IPA transcriptions there is no syllable separator (the dot). Therefore, if you look at dictionaries, particularly British dictionaries, that employ the IPA such as Oxford Dictionaries, the Macmillan or the Collins, you will see

/kɑːˈtuːn/ or /kɑː(r)ˈtuːn/

The stress mark (ˈ) is placed before the stressed syllable.

Some dictionaries, especially American dictionaries, indicate syllables; this is often marked in the headword. This information is often included to indicate how a word might be separated across lines. The Merriam Webster, for instance, shows this:


The pronunciation is indicated by a kind of modified IPA (with diacritics) and the hyphen is employed as a syllable separator:


Dictionary.com does not employ IPA, but instead uses respelling; it uses the hyphen the same way and stress is indicated by boldfacing.


Dictionaries that stick to the full IPA do not generally indicate syllable division whereas those that do not might include syllable division markers.

  • The syllable break symbol [.] has been an official component of IPA since 1989, although it was used unofficially before that. Some dictionaries include it in their phonetic transcriptions; some don't. I have no idea what you mean by "standard IPA transcriptions"; there is a standard IPA alphabet, but no standard for how to transcribe English using it. Oct 15, 2016 at 13:06

The use of a dot to divide syllables in IPA transcriptions is optional, not mandatory. Furthermore, an IPA stress marker is conventionally placed directly before the start of the stressed syllable, so including a dot before it would be redundant.

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