Tools & Resources for Phonetics

When doing phonetics these days, it is really advisable to make use of the computer for analysis and transcription.This page is meant to give you a brief – and certainly not very comprehensive – overview of what is publicly* available in terms of audio tools, phonetic fonts and sites that may provide materials for listening to or even as downloads. Provided that I can find some more time in the future, I will periodically try to update this page and add further information or pointers to other useful resources.

Pronouncing Dictionaries

When checking on the correct pronunciation/transcription of a word, it’s best to avoid standard dictionaries because they tend to be more inconsistent and some of them, especially some less reputable online-dictionaries, don’t even bother to use correct phonetic symbols at all. It’s therefore best to us a dedicated pronouncing dictionary for this purpose. The two recommended dictionaries we have here in the library are:

Transcription Editors

In order to simplify the transcription for your work in the classroom, I have written a simple web-based transcription editor, which is now available as a single web page without frames. You can either use it online here or download the page from there and save it for offline use on your own computer.

For converting the text passages for your assignments from graphemes to phonemes, and subsequent editing thereof, please download the setup program for my Grapheme to Phoneme Transcriber & Editor and run it on your (Windows) computer. This setup program (that you’ll have to extract from the archive first) will install the program for you and also create a shortcut on your desktop. The program also shows some basic instructions for usage each time you start it. I hope, I have now found and fixed all the bugs ;-), but if you discover any that really need fixing, please let me know about this as soon as possible. For submitting your assignments, simply create a text file of your transcriptions in the editor and send this file to me as an attachment.


In terms of audio tools, we can essentially distinguish between two different types, general purpose audio tools and tools specifically designed for phonetic purposes.


When analysing/transcribing a digital/-ised recording, one should minimally make use of a decent audio tool (waveform editor) that provides a facility for selecting part of the recording in order to play it back repeatedly. This makes it much easier to arrive at a proper transcription than listening to longer stretches of speech over and over again. A good general purpose audio tool of this kind is the freeware sound editor Audacity. It allows you to record sound files through a sound card and also edit/manipulate these in various ways, as well as providing facilities for export to different formats, such as .wav, MP3 or Ogg/Vorbis.



Although there are some non-Unicode True-Type fonts available for Windows from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) – which at least some Linux versions allow you to install as well –, I would recommend you install a Unicode font, such as Arial Unicode MS. This is the font that I have been using on my pages. A fairly comprehensive list of suitable Unicode fonts can be found on John Wells’ Unicode info page. The older, non-Unicode, fonts sometimes come packaged with specific tools, like the SIL Speech tools introduced above. They may be easier to handle in a wordprocessor, but are not as useful for the web because some browsers may not render them correctly for all web page elements, especially not text areas, even if one is using an appropriate style sheet.


Unless you have the option to make your own recordings of native or non-native speakers of English, it is easiest to do a web search for some appropriate sound materials. Some suitable key words/phrases are “sound archives”, “dialect archives” or “dialect recordings” or some permutations thereof. If this does not yield enough appropriate results, you can try using “accent” instead of “dialect” and probably also add the keyword “spoken” to you list of search terms.

Below, you’ll find a brief list of some suitable links, the first two being mainly for British accents, whereas the latter provide international accent material.

If you choose to make your own recordings, please bear in mind that you need to have recording equipment/facilities of suitable quality in order to make recordings that are good enough to conduct a phonetic analysis on them. If in doubt, come and consult me.


It’s usually best to try and download either .wav, .mp3 or .ogg files because a variety of basic audio editing programs and even some phonetics tools support them. Some sites, however, only offer streaming formats, such as .ram, in which case you can download the link to the file and use a converter, such as Switch, which will allow you to ‘convert’ the link.