Often in introductory textbooks, new terms are introduced with a simplified pronunciation hint. For example,

pharmaceutical (FAR-muh-sue-ti-kal)

It's certainly not IPA or even the types of pronunciation cues, with schwas and accented vowels, you'd see in an older American English dictionary. The syllable with the (most) emphasis is written in caps, and all the syllables are written out phonetically.

Is there a name for this type of pronunciation hint? Is there a standard for it? By standard, I mean a (perhaps de facto) guide that would explain how to convert from a more formal scheme, like IPA, to this phonetic scheme.


1 Answer 1


This is an example of pronunciation respelling, or, more specifically, non-phonemic, or newspaper, pronunciation respelling.

As this site explains:

A pronunciation respelling is a regular phonetic respelling of a word. It does have a standard format to indicate sounds. Most monolingual dictionaries designed for native-speaker use employs pronunciation respelling. One of the more famous dictionaries that uses pronunciation respelling instead of the IPA is Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English, Third Collegiate Edition (1988).

The article goes on to conclude:

Learn English or Starve uses both phonetic respelling and the IPA whenever possible. Failing that, we make do with newspaper-style pronunciation spelling because, honestly speaking, most people find it’s good enough.

As far as there being a standard, look at the pronunciation references in M-W's help page.

  • OK, it sounds like "newspaper respelling" is what I'm after. That term is certainly improving my search results. Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 19:44
  • 1
    Thanks. Your answer led me to the NBC Handbook of Pronunciation, which is almost exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. The second edition is available from the Internet Archive: archive.org/details/nbchandbookofpro00bend Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 20:42
  • My pleasure. And thank you, the NBC Handbook is quite an interesting reference.
    – Gnawme
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 20:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.