Phonetic Fonts Online

This site was designed to maximize usability.  It is a free resource, but we also hope to make it the best resource for dialects of English.  As such, we have elected to use justified text (in certain areas) in a darker grey font color to fit with a clean, modern aesthetic which be believe increases readability and enjoyment of the site.  Fonts that compliment this aesthetic and are widely supported by browsers include the sans serif font Arial, which we use two forms of on this website.

Keeping with the sans-serif motif, we next carefully examined several fonts that supported the full arsenal of the IPA.  It was our hope to find a single, unifying “body” font that would be sans-serif and have excellent accuracy and legibility in the area of phonetics, and pleasantly flowing in a justified or non-justified alignment for readers focusing on orthographic and biographic sections.

We found that most IPA unicode fonts (Charis SIL, Doulos SIL, Lucida Sans, etc) were less pleasant for the general text body, were less legible for our transcriptions, or both.

Arial persisted as our best font choice. However, if you are using windows XP or an earlier operating system, Arial does not support phonetics- IDEA is best viewed with an operating system that is post windows XP.  In order to accommodate windows XP users, we elected to use an alternative arial font, Arial Unicode MS as our first choice in a series of font possibilities that this site “suggests” to your internet browser.  If you don’t have Arial Unicode MS, it asks for the next font on the list.

The site uses the following font list:  Arial Unicode MS, Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans Unicode, Arial.

It begins to get increasingly technical from here- but this list is based on balancing various operating systems, browsers, aesthetics, and support of the full IPA (including diacritics and suprasegmentals).

In the event that we suspected an IPA transcription might be lost, we chose to includePDFs of the original transcriptions are to minimize error.  However, because PDFs are not fully searchable in the same way as plain HTML text, we attempt to include the transcription, in a Unicode font, inserted as plain text in all samples.


In many instances, antiquated IPA fonts were used by editors prior to our 2012 overhaul.  Obviously, many of these samples had to be completely recreated or transliterated to be searchable and more fully utilized.  This transliteration from various antiquated IPA fonts to unicode compatible fonts that have cross-browser and multi OS platform support is challenging and ongoing.  Please report errors to the staff of IDEA.

More about phonetic fonts for use on the internet can be found in this article by John Wells.

Another excellent resource can be found here.

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