International Phonetic Association
Formation1886; 138 years ago (1886)
FounderPaul Passy
TypePrivate company limited by guarantee
PurposeScientific study of phonetics
Headquarters24 Holborn Viaduct, London, England
Official language
None by law[1] English de facto[2]
Katerina Nicolaidis
Key people
Main organ
Journal of the International Phonetic Association
WebsiteInternational Phonetic Association

The International Phonetic Association (IPA; French: Association phonétique internationale, API) is an organization that promotes the scientific study of phonetics and the various practical applications of that science. The IPA's major contribution to phonetics is the International Phonetic Alphabet—a notational standard for the phonetic representation of all languages. The acronym IPA refers to both the association and the alphabet. On 30 June 2015, it was incorporated as a British private company limited by guarantee.[3][4]

The IPA also oversees the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, published by Cambridge University Press, whose articles include descriptions of languages as well as other topics in phonetics. In addition, it arranges for the quadrennial International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS)[5] through its affiliate, the Permanent Council for the Organization of ICPhS.

Early history

In 1886, a small group of language teachers in Paris formed an association to encourage the use of phonetic notation in schools to help children acquire realistic pronunciations of foreign languages and also to aid in teaching reading to young children. The group, led by Paul Passy, called itself initially Dhi Fonètik Tîtcerz' Asóciécon (the FTA). In January 1889, the name of the Association was changed to L'Association Phonétique des Professeurs de Langues Vivantes (AP), and, in 1897, to L'Association Phonétique Internationale (API)—in English, the International Phonetic Association (IPA). The IPA's early peak of membership and influence in education circles was around 1914, when there were 1751 members in 40 countries. World War I and its aftermath severely disrupted the Association's activities, and the Journal did not resume regular publication until 1922.

Development of the Alphabet

Main article: History of the International Phonetic Alphabet

The group's initial aim was to create a set of phonetic symbols to which different articulations could apply, such that each language would have an alphabet particularly suited to describe the sounds of the language. Eventually it was decided that a universal alphabet, with the same symbol being used for the same sound in different languages was the ideal. The first prototype of the International Phonetic Alphabet appeared in Phonetic Teachers' Association (1888), and its development progressed rapidly up to the turn of the 20th century. Since then, there have been several sets of changes to the Alphabet, with additions and deletions that the progress of the science of phonetics has indicated.


The IPA also has given examinations in phonetics since 1908, awarding Certificates of Proficiency in the phonetics of English, French, or German.

See also


  1. ^ "Statutes and By-Laws of the International Phonetic Association". International Phonetic Association.
  2. ^ The Journal of the International Phonetic Association is published in English since 1971. "Journal of the IPA".
  3. ^ About the Association
  4. ^ "The International Phonetic Association". Companies House.
  5. ^ IPA: Conferences

Further reading