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Different phonetic symbols in different dictionaries (BrE)

If we look up the words grandparent, penknife and turkey in several dictionaries, we

may find different transcriptions regarding the phonemes æ, e, ɪ, ɜː, aɪ, eə.

This annoying discrepancy is due to the constant research into the trends in
pronunciation among English speakers carried out by experts in the field of phonology.
The staff of experts working for each publisher decide to include or not to include
these minor changes in their dictionaries, so we end up with diverse transcriptions for
the same word.

For learners of English, who already have a hard work with 20 vowel phonemes, having
different symbols for variants of the sounds does not ease their task. Be that as it may,
such slight change in the sound has little or no actual effect on the understanding of
spoken language and, luckily, phonetic transcription is not required to pass any of the
Cambridge exams!

See the table below to compare five top online dictionaries.

IPA symbol
& example
Collins COBUILD Collins Oxford
/pæn/ /pæn/ /pan/
/pen/ /pɛn/ /pɛn/
/ˈprɪti / /ˈprɪtɪ/ /ˈprɪti /
/sɜː/ /sɜː/ /səː/

/naɪt/ /naɪt/ /nʌɪt/

/keə/ /kɛə/ /kɛː/

jʊ /sɪtʃʊˈeɪʃən/
/ˌsɪtʃuˈeɪʃən/ /ˌsɪtjʊˈeɪʃən/
situation /sɪtjʊˈeɪʃən/

The phoneme / i/ , a sound between / ɪ/ and / iː /, is practically restricted to these
unstressed endings: consonant + y (hardly, messy) and consonant + ey (abbey,
This phoneme is, in fact, a foreign sound similar to Spanish /i/ , which began to
spread among young speakers in the 1980s. It is significant that in the 14th edition
of English Pronouncing Dictionary (Dent, 1989) it does not appear: abbey /ˈæ bɪ/,
while in the 18th edition (CUP, 2011) it is the usual transcription: abbey /ˈæ bi/.