The Nearly Anacrophonic Phonetic Alphabet


This is the home page for the initial draft version of the Nearly Anacrophonic Phonetic Alphabet (NAPA), intended to replace or supplement the familiar NATO phonetic alphabet, which uses alfa to represent the letter A, bravo to represent B, and so on.

The designers of the NATO phonetic alphabet seem to have cared more about the maintainence of traditional conceptions of phonetic alphabets than about strict adherence to the fundamental principle of anacrophony. True, they make a minor concession by using charlie to represent the letter C, but this almost feels like an oversight.

The NAPA is an attempt to make a truly anacrophonic phonetic alphabet. While we were unable to rigorously maintain anacrophony, we feel that the few exceptions were unavoidable. In any case, the NAPA hews much more closely to the basic idea of anacrophony than any other phonetic alphabet of which we are aware. (Some others are mentioned in the discussion on the NAPA design principles page.)

This is a working draft. To suggest improvements, visit the NAPA blog.

The alphabet itself

The following table presents the NAPA code words for the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet. The pronunciation hints listed in the third column of the table are admittedly ad hoc, and will be useful at best to speakers of American English. The fourth column gives the pronunciation using the notation of the IPA, as indicated by the Oxford English Dictionary (unless otherwise indicated).

Letter Code word Pronunciation IPA from OED[1]
A aural OR UL ˈɔːrəl
B bdellatomy DEL LAH TUH MEE dɛˈlætəmɪ
C ctenoid TEE NOYD ˈtiːnɔɪd
D djinn JIN dʒɪn
E ewe YOO juː
F fantasm FAN TAS UHM ˈfæntæz(ə)m
G gneiss NIYS naɪs
H heir EHR ɛə(r)
I ingénue AHN JHE NOO æ̃ʒeny
J jipijapa HIP EE HAH PUH ˈhipɪˈhɑpə
K knead NEED niːd
L llareta YUH RAY DUH ʎəˈreɪdə (Webster)[2]
M mneme NEE MEE ˈnimi
N ngoma ENG GO MUH (ə)ŋˈgoʊmə
O oneing WUN ING wənɪŋ
P pteris TEHR US ˈtɛrəs
Q qi CHEE tʃi
R rath RATH ræƟ
S segar SIH GAHR sɪˈgɑː(r)
T Tlingit KLINK IT ˈklɪŋkɪt
U uakari WUH KAH REE wəˈkɑːrɪ
V voetganger FOOT HAHNG UR ˈfuːtxɑŋə(r)
W wrest REST rɛst
X Xhosa KOH ZUH ˈkəʊzə
Y yttric IT RICK ˈɪtrɪk
Z zwieback SWEE BAHK
ˈswiːbɑk (Webster)[3]
ˈtsviːbɑk (OED)

Footnotes to the table:

  1. We use the New Edition (in progress, 2000–) of the Oxford English Dictionary for our pronunciations. We list the primary pronunciation; if a distinction is made between British and U.S. pronunciation, we choose the primary U.S. pronunciation. The OED gives no separate U.S. pronunciation for heir, segar, and voetganger, and indicates that the final /r/ in these words is sometimes suppressed. While this is true in British English, it is not the case in American English, so in the pronunciation hints in the third column we have included the final /r/.

  2. Llareta is not listed in the OED, so we have converted Webster's pronunciation into IPA notation.

  3. We have listed Webster's pronunciation, as well as the OED's, because it is more common in the United States.

Additional comments

The NATO phonetic alphabet and the NAPA are more accurately called spelling alphabets; unlike the International Phonetic Alphabet, they are not phonetic transcription systems.

For information on the development and design principles of the NAPA, see the NAPA design principles page.

What counts as a word, for the purposes of the NAPA? Again, see the NAPA design principles page.

To suggest improvements or to comment on the current NAPA draft, visit the NAPA blog.