The IPA was first published in 1888 by the Association Phonétique
Internationale (International Phonetic Association), a group of French
language teachers founded by Paul Passy. The aim of the organisation was
to devise a system for transcribing the sounds of speech which was independent
of any particular language and applicable to all languages.
A phonetic script for English created in 1847 by Isaac Pitman and Henry
Ellis was used as a model for the IPA.
The IPA is used in dictionaries to indicate the pronunciation of
The IPA has often been used as a basis for creating new writing
systems for previously unwritten languages.
The IPA is used in some foreign language text books and phrase books
to transcribe the sounds of languages which are written with non-latin
alphabets. It is also used by non-native speakers of English when
learning to speak English.
Where symbols appear in pairs, the one on the right represents a voiced
consonant, while the one on the left is unvoiced. Shaded areas denote
articulations judged to be impossible.