The IPA is important because it provides meaningful details beyond spelling. For example, we all spell the word ‘cup’ the same way in Standard written English, but the transcription of this word will vary, depending on the way we actually say it. For some people (e.g. most people from the South of England) /kʌp/ serves as an accurate transcription, while for other people (e.g. most people from the North of England) /kʊp/ will be much better.

Although the English language has only five vowels in its written form (a, e, i, o, u), there are a host of ways in which these might be pronounced when produced out loud by speakers. IPA provides a standardised means of representing this variation. The different symbols relate to where in the vocal tract sounds are made, how, and the quality of the sounds themselves.

The fieldworkers used IPA to record the dialect of individuals and capture variation like this. They recorded it in Response Books created for each village they visited.




Response book, Threlkeld.

'Book VII: Numbers, Time and Weather [Threlkeld Response Book]' (LAVC/SED/2/2/2/4/7) by Stanley Ellis.

You can see the IPA across the page, but on the left-hand side are the responses to the Survey questions.