Pronunciation Guides

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From Daily Writing Tips:

A reader, wondering about the pronunciation of caricature, asks if I would consider including the phonetic pronunciation of words I discuss.

Many years ago, when I first began writing for DWT, I provided phonetic transcriptions and talked rather a lot about pronunciation. Two considerations led to my dropping the transcriptions and treading carefully on matters of pronunciation.

The first was the fact that I had difficulty deciding on what phonetic transcription to use. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) was my first choice, but many non-specialist readers do not like to deal with it, and the symbols don’t always come up as intended. I tried various notations of my own, using letters and letter-combinations, but none worked to my satisfaction.

The second consideration was that some readers do not take kindly to being told that one pronunciation is preferable to another. This I learned by way of the Comments.

In sum, I discontinued my efforts to provide phonetic help, trusting readers to find a congenial pronunciation authority of their own liking. Here are some options.

The one I use most is Howjsay. It favo(u)rs British pronunciation, but gives the US pronunciation when it differs significantly. For caricature, only the British pronunciation is given.

Online dictionaries provide both phonetic transcriptions and audio clips.

The Oxford English Dictionary uses the IPA phonetic transcription: caricature (ˈkarɪkəˌtjʊə/). It does not show the US pronunciation.

Merriam-Webster uses their own phonetic transcription: caricature: ˈker-i-kə-ˌchu̇r. It also offers alternatives: -ˌchər, -ˌtyu̇r, -ˌtu̇r, ˈka-ri-

Dictionary-dot-com offers a letter-only phonetic version: caricature: kar-i-kuh-cher, -choor. Readers have the option to click for the IPA transcription.

The Cambridge Dictionary gives both the British and US pronunciations:
caricature: ˈkær.ɪ.kə.tʃʊər. /ˈker.ə.kə.tʃʊr

Collins Dictionay gives both British and US pronunciations in IPA: caricature kærɪkətʃʊəʳ. US: -tʃər

The Google Dictionary eschews IPA and gives caricature: /ˈkerikəCHər,ˈkerikəˌCHo͝or/

Link to the rest at Daily Writing Tips

PG suggests that there is a more useful and easier to use alternative to decoding kær.ɪ.kə.tʃʊər.

And it carries the imprimatur of The Cambridge Dictionary:

1 thought on “Pronunciation Guides”

  1. Whilst not disagreeing with PG’s suggestion that the Cambridge Dictionary’s approach is more useful than the various phonetic alphabets (at least to those who are not professionals in this field), I have to admit that I can hear very little difference between the three of the four sound samples given for “caricature” and the one sounds distinctive to me (the UK noun version) is not how this Englishman would pronounce it.

    Indeed, given the multiplicity of accents and dialects within both the UK and the USA, I have doubts about the value of pronunciation guides, at least to native speakers of the language. Clearly, any foreigner faced with UK English words ending in “ough” will need all the help they can get, and most people in the UK who are not locals get place names like Cholmondeley or Belvoir (as in Castle) wrong.

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