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Understanding Dictionary Pronunciation Guides
The dictionary is full of useful features that can help you understand and use words. The dictionary pronunciation guide is your key to knowing how to say words correctly. With a dictionary in hand, you’ll know how to spell words, what they mean and how to say them.
Where to Find Pronunciation Guides in the Dictionary
The International Phonetic Association is the default pronunciation guide used by most dictionaries. Generally, you’ll find the pronunciation guide for each word’s alphabetical entry surrounded by backward slashes after the bolded entry word, although different dictionaries may vary in the placement and style of their pronunciation guides. Consult the key at the beginning of a dictionary to learn the style used in that dictionary if it’s not clear when you initially look up a word.
Overview of Pronunciation Guides
Pronunciation guides give you all the information you need to pronounce words correctly. Hyphens serve to separate the syllables of words. You’ll see a primary vertical stress mark over the syllable where you should place the strongest emphasis in your pronunciation. A secondary stress mark is typically placed over the syllable that should receive a medium stress. If there’s more than one way to pronounce a word, you may see pronunciation symbols surrounded by parentheses.
How to Use a Pronunciation Guide for Vowels
Look for the symbols surrounded by backward slashes and possibly parentheses. You’ll then see vowel symbols to show how to pronounce vowels. Vowel pronunciation can vary widely, so there are many vowel symbols.
If you see a straight line over a vowel, pronounce it like its name. If you see no symbol over a vowel or a curved line, the vowel has a short sound. Seeing two dots over a vowel indicates a long sound.
All vowels make one similar sound that sounds like a short “uh.” Some vowels are influenced by the letter “r,” creating a different pronunciation. When two vowels make a sound together, this is known as a diphthong.
How to Use a Pronunciation Guide for Consonants
Along with the vowel symbols, you’ll see consonant symbols that tell you how to pronounce the consonants in the entry word. Consonant symbols are usually very straightforward, indicating that the consonants sound just as they appear in words. Sometimes consonants might be different though, as in the word photograph, which would show the letter “f” as the sound for “ph.”
Dictionary Meaning, English Usage and More
Not only can a dictionary tell you how to pronounce words, but you can also learn many other things about words when you look them up in a dictionary. Learn correct spellings, learn definitions, see entry words used in example sentences, learn where words originated, find synonyms and learn the parts of speech of words, such as whether a word is a noun or a verb.
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