Oxford American English dictionary uses "y" symbol instead of "j" in their pronunciation guide. Most other dictionaries use j. So are there any differences between the 2 symbols or they are just the same? Why do they have to use y instead of j?


Cambridge dictionaries use j in yes pronunciation transcription: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/essential-american-english/yes?q=Yes

Oxford American English dictionary uses y: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/yes_1?q=Yes

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    /dʒ/ as in /dʒun/ is the most common phonetic symbol for J. Where are you seeing "y" being used to represent the consonant J?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 18, 2023 at 11:59
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    Please see the link I mentioned, y is used as a consonant symbol oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/about/…
    – Nam N
    Jan 18, 2023 at 12:13
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    Cambridge dictionaries and most of other dictionaries use j, including Oxford English/Academic dictionary. j is very common, I thought everyone knew. Just wonder why Oxford American English dictionary uses y dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/essential-american-english/…
    – Nam N
    Jan 18, 2023 at 14:08
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    Because American English phonemes are not the same symbols as UK English phonemes. The European standard (IPA) is /j/, but American English phonemes use the Y symbol instead of J. J is in fact not used in American English phonemics; Y is used instead. There are no /y/ vowels in English, so there's no confusion, unless one expects UK and US Englishes to be pronounced the same. Jan 18, 2023 at 14:28
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    But the phonemic symbols for English are not phonetic symbols -- they're phonemes, not phones, and the IPA is specifically only for phones. When someone uses the term "phonemic", you're sposta understand that it's a local language-specific bunch of characters, not strict IPA. So what you expect is wrong. Get used to it. Jan 20, 2023 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


/j/ is correct in the International Phonetic Alphabet (see Wikipedia).

However, this tends to cause great confusion for English speakers, who pronounce the letter "j" in most words as /dʒ/; they might think that the dictionary intended a /dʒ/ sound when they see /j/ in a pronunciation.

So some dictionaries will try to avoid the problem by using "y" instead of /j/. This is rather annoying, since the IPA already uses /y/ to indicate a particular vowel sound (see here). But that sound does not generally appear in English, so English dictionaries can get away with using "y" to represent the /j/ sound.

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    Phonemes do not represent literal sounds. This is a great confusion. Only phones are literal sounds, and dictionaries only ever give phonemes and therefore dictionaries never actually tell you the exact sounds. You always have to convert to the phones that make sense in the phonology of the local dialect's accent and context and speaker and utterance. Just look at /r/ if you don't believe me. Phonemics won't give you sounds by themselves. The [r] phone does not occur in American English. Ever. When the Oxford American English Dictionary writes /r/, they never mean [r]!
    – tchrist
    Jan 21, 2023 at 0:28

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