Monday, February 1, 2010

Spotlight on Linguistic Tools: IPA TypeIt Keyboard

Anyone in my courses right now is either already working on or will shortly be working on learning the IPA and putting it to use through transcriptions.  As someone who has had to use the IPA quite a bit--and has had to type it into documents--I understand the frustration of trying to easily put IPA symbols right into a typed document.  I used to be "old school" about how I did it: As I typed, when I came to a place I needed to insert a special IPA character, I'd go to "Special Characters" (when working on my Mac) or "Insert Character" (when working on a PC) and manually insert the character I needed.  That works fine and all, but it can get quite cumbersome--especially if the document is a lengthy one or requires a lot of IPA.  I've spent the last few months trying to get more tech-savvy with linguistics tools so that I can more readily put together fancy-looking linguistic analyses and so that I can help my students find shortcuts to putting together professional-looking documents, whether they're working on homeworks or a final project.  As a new feature of the blog, I will be spotlighting some of the more useful tools I've found (not all of them will focus on using the IPA), in the hopes that other people will benefit from them as much as I already have.

The first tool is an online IPA keyboard: IPA TypeIt.  When you click on the link, you will be take to a screen that looks something like this:

The bulk of the screen is a blank text box, where you can simply type using the keys on your keyboard; then, when you reach a symbol you need that your keyboard doesn't already have, you simply move your cursor to the row of symbols above the text box and click on the one you need.  The symbol is automatically put into the text where the cursor is, and you can keep typing from there.  Once you've finished creating your text, all you have to do is copy the text from the webpage and then paste it into whatever you're working on--whether it's a document or another webpage or even an online chat.  You can even specify the font you want and the size of that font.

Here is another screenshot, this one with text typed into the box:

Notice that you can enter down to start new lines and that you can type in regular orthography side-by-side with the IPA you're using.  Here is that same text, copied and pasted into the body of the blog:

You can more easily type in IPA
ju kæn mɔr izəli tɑɪp ɪn ɑɪ pi eɪ

The only drawback is that you can't use the tab key while in the text box; what that means is that if you want everything lined up so that each word's IPA transcription appears directly below the orthographical word, you'd have to rely on the spacebar to make that alignment happen.

The advantages of the online keyboard are that you don't have to download anything because it's an online tool, it's user-friendly, and you can use it for more than just IPA (look down the options on the left-hand side of the screen, and check out the Russian keyboard because it's just that cool).  The disadvantages are that it is an online-only tool, which means you can only use it if your internet is cooperating, not all the IPA symbols are represented, and you can't use diacritics with the symbols (only needed for more advanced transcriptions).

For beginning linguistics students, I'd say the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages.  Here is the link again in case you're so excited to check it out that you don't want to scroll back up through the post to find the original link: IPA TypeIt.

Have fun with the keyboard, and let me know what you think about it.  In the next spotlight, I'll be focusing on a more technical tool for using IPA in typewritten documents.


  1. This kind of information is very limited on internet. Nice to find the post related to my searching criteria. Your updated and informative post will be appreciated by blog loving people.

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  2. I'm glad you appreciate it! I would like to keep doing more spotlights on linguistic tools, so if you have any suggestions of tools for such articles, just let me know.