Is there a way to unambiguously convey that the "th" in a word should be voiced, like in the word "the", but without using the International Phonetic Alphabet (or any non-alphabetic characters)?

Example: If I want to show the correct pronunciation of the proper name Umelmehey in this fashion, I can write "uh-MEL-mah-hey".

If I want to show that a word, e.g. "lather", should be pronounced so that it rhymes with laser (meaning one who lathes), and there is no word that rhymes with it, how can I do that?

  • 4
    There is none! The most popular digraph using only ASCII is "dh," but it will likely be unfamiliar to most readers and prone to being pronounced as just /d/. – sumelic Mar 23 '17 at 16:13
  • 2
    Can you use "LAY-ther to rhyme with BAY-ther"? – Yosef Baskin Mar 23 '17 at 16:17
  • 1
    Your example of "lather" (one who lathes) does have a rhyme: "bather". – Mark Beadles Mar 23 '17 at 16:18
  • Thanks @MarkBeadles. I should clarify that the word I'm trying to represent is not "lather" and I think "laser" sufficiently rhymes with that, er, word. The word I'm trying to convey the pronunciation for is a made up proper noun, so I didn't want to confuse the question. – Dynrepsys Mar 23 '17 at 16:23
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    Could you give us the proper noun you want help with? – Yosef Baskin Mar 23 '17 at 16:41

This list of pronunciation respelling systems on Wikipedia gives a good idea as to what's used in various systems.

Here is a screenshot (irrelevant rows removed):

IPA1  IPA2    APA NOAD    AHD RHD WBO MECD    DPL DPN TBD NBC MWCD    COD4    POD Cham    SD  AB  Dictcom BBC Wikipedia¹  Wikipedia²  Examples//θ θ   θ   ᴛʜ  th  t͡h th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th  th//ð   ð   ð   ᴛʜ  th  th̸ th  th  th  t̷h TH  th: th  dh  th  dh  TH  dh th   dh  dh  dh

So, /θ/ (unvoiced th) is usually written as "th", while /ð/ (voiced th) has more variation:

  • "dh"
  • underlined t̲h̲
  • capitalized TH
  • italic th
  • various strikethroughs (th̸, t̷h, TH)

The American Heritage Dictionary uses:

  • 'th' for unvoiced th /θ/
  • 'th' (italicized) for voiced th /ð/.

Reference (PDF).

  • 3
    And others used barred th and unbarred th, for the voiceless and voiced, respectively. American dictionaries are much worse than IPA and not anywhere as consistent or usable. Plus, nobody ever gets good at any of them, so they're hopeless if you want to be clear to everybody. There is no substitute for IPA for that. – John Lawler Mar 23 '17 at 16:58

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