For some reason or another, I was looking at the Oxford Dictionaries definition for ailurophile (cat-lover).

Then I noticed that, underneath its Pronunciation header, it gives the IPA transcript as


What bothers me here is the first vowel: /ʌ/.

If memory serves me, in BrE, the /ʌ/vowel is a short, low 'uh' sound, as in under.

In my mind, it is /aɪˈljʊərəˌfaɪl/, with an instead of a ʌ at the beginning and near-end.

This is backed up by Wiktionary, which also gives /aɪˈljʊəɹəˌfaɪl/ for the RP pronunciation.

The ODO page does indeed use a BrE pronunciation.

I have undergone further research by reading the answer here. It says:

Assuming we take the symbol "ʌ" to represent more or less the STRUT vowel, some contemporary North American speakers have a diphthong more or less pronounced [ʌɪ] as an allophone of /aɪ/; and for certain other speakers, there is maybe a marginally phonemic split between /ʌɪ/ and /aɪ/. This is due to the phenomenon called "Canadian raising".

But this is to do with BrE, where there is a clear difference.

Is there anything I'm missing?


  • The diphthong in side is denoted by /ʌɪ/ in the ODO's IPA notation. So the ODO's /ʌɪˈljʊərəˌfʌɪl/ and Wiktionary's /aɪˈljʊəɹəˌfaɪl/ are the same phonemic pronunciation. Do RP speakers really use this diphthong for side? I am sure that some of them do. And some of them probably still use the older pronunciation /aɪ/. Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 11:58
  • You can't see BrE speakers use this diphthong. You might hear the younger ones use it. ODO has changed its phonetic representation to reflect changes in speech. Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 12:08
  • 1
    You can see the changes discussed here. Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 12:47

1 Answer 1


It's just an alternative transcription for the same phoneme that you and Wiktionary transcribe as /aɪ/ (the vowel found in the words "price" and "size"). Oxford Dictionaries' transcriptions do not use the symbol , so there is no contrast between ʌɪ and aɪ. The use of ʌɪ in this context is unrelated to "Canadian raising".

Oxford consulted the linguist Clive Upton for its transcriptions, but Upton's choice of the symbol ʌɪ was criticized by the linguist John Wells for reasons that Wells explains on the following web page: IPA transcription systems for English. Not all linguists use IPA the same way.

It isn't very easy to nail down the use of the various IPA symbols for "a-like" vowels such as /æ/, /a/, /ɑ/, /ɐ/, /ʌ/, /ə/, /ɜ/. English is unusual in having a relatively high number of contrastive vowel phonemes in this area but different accents, and even just different individuals, pronounce things differently. When two IPA symbols are used together to represent a diphthong phoneme, it doesn't necessarily mean that the diphthong is pronounced exactly like a combination of the distinct vowel phonemes that the IPA symbols represent when used separately. So you shouldn't be too surprised by the discrepancy between the sound that you use at the start of /ʌɪ/ and the sound at the start of the word under.

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