I tried this thread but it answered only with Pinyin suggestions, and not IPA.

  • I have not searched too extensively, but it appears to me that IPA is not really used (at least in teaching materials; academic publication might be different) to transliterate Chinese, since we are quite well served with Pinyin and apart from the tone signs (which can be replaced by numbers, if needed) they are also easier to type on a standard keyboard, than the cryptic IPA signs like ɤ, ʂ or ɨ. Pinyin is (as long as you interpret it as the pronunciation of the idealized Standard Mandarin, whatever that is) fully transparent, though erhua, tone sandhi are some practical issues.
    – imrek
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 6:51
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    However, if you need a reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA_for_Mandarin The actual accuracy of this table could be a subject to discussion, but I find it good enough, given that Pinyin is almost always used instead.
    – imrek
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 6:55
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    If you get the IPA from the pinyin you won't need an only IPA dictionary at all. Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 15:36
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    As others have pointed out, you probably don't need such a dictionary. If you learn how the initials and finals are written with IPA, even if you include syllables with neutral tones, there are still less than 100 items. If you don't want to learn them, keep a reference table handy. I do think IPA is useful for learning, though, and actually wrote an article about it here, which includes a resource collection for Mandarin IPA: hackingchinese.com/…
    – Olle Linge
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 7:30
  • @DrunkenMaster: The IPA table on Wikipedia maps the 'o' in -ong as /ʊ/, but this is not what I hear in, e.g. yóuyǒng and nóng, where I always hear a short /ɔ/ (or /o/?). I have never heard -ǒng with an /ʊ/, and I have rarely heard -òng with an /ɔ/. This is something that IPA would be able to render if you wonder whether there is a tone-dependent rules about the pronuncation of -ong or when you don't have recordings at hand.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 13:59

5 Answers 5


You are unlikely to find such a resource. For languages that already have an unambiguous standard notation for pronunciation (which pinyin is), it's uncommon to find dictionaries that indicate pronunciation in IPA. Heck, it's even hard to find dictionaries with IPA for languages with incredibly complex orthography/pronunciation mappings!

Instead, as the comments on your question suggest, you should find a resource that provides pinyin to IPA mappings, and then you can mechanically derive IPA from pinyin if you so desire.

  • @Kevman No problem; sorry if they came off as blunt or rude. Commented May 18, 2017 at 3:51
  • No taken. I wrote the post in a native Chinese speaker's perspective at first. Then I realize I confused the "English IPA" with the IPA.
    – Kevman
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 5:52

Edit: Thanks for @StumpyJoePete's pointing out.

IPA could be applied to all languages, including Chinese. But it's hard to replace Pinyin.

And the Pinyin is originally designed to replace Chinese Hanzi.(Obviously, it failed.) And I found a Quora- like post (in Chinese) to comparing IPA with Pinyin. Very helpful to clarify IPA vs Pinyin.

But the conclusion is same: It's hard to find a Chinese dictionary supply IPA.

Another helpful post(also in Chinese) to compare Pinyin and Wade–Giles system(also known as Wade's pinyin in China)

Assume IPA stand for International Phonetic Alphabet.

It's less likely that you could find a Chinese dictionary supply IPA. Because the system is not the same.

IPA is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based on Latin alphabet. It works perfectly for Latin-like languages.

However, Chinese is not one of Latin language family. So IPA might not work in the Chinese system. That's why we invented pinyin system.

Here's a IPA for Mandarin for helping.

But it note: "See Standard Chinese phonology for more detail on the sounds of the language." And "English equivalents given in this page may represent only loose approximations to the original pronunciations."

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    IPA is explicitly "notational standard for the phonemic and phonetic representation of all spoken languages". And languages and writing systems are entirely independent concepts. It's also funny that you say "that's why we invented pinyin", as that is a romanization (i.e., using the Latin alphabet)! Commented May 17, 2017 at 21:15
  • And the "loose approximations" caveat was for the "English equivalents", not for the IPA. Commented May 17, 2017 at 21:21

No. And there should not be.

IPA is used to study languages, including Chinese languages. Linguists use it in intensive study of regional differences in pronunciation in China, and for detailed study of exactly how each standard Hanyu pinyin syllable is meant to sound and how it is to be produced in the mouth (tongue and jaw positions etc). These are complex questions and linguists do not entirely agree about any of them. The best comprehensive source I know for that is Lin Sounds of Chinese.

IPA is far too elaborate to use in a practical dictionary. And there is too little consensus about the exact details of either the descriptive or prescriptive phonology of Chinese to make any IPA dictionary widely acceptable to linguists.

The right tool for the job of teaching practical modern Mandarin pronunciation to students, is precisely Hanyu Pinyin.

  • if IPA is too precise, does that mean pinyin is more phonemic than phonetic?
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 8:24
  • @jiggunjer I don't think IPA is more precise than Hanyu Pinyin. But IPA is designed to be independent of any one language and supply far more sounds than any one language uses. It makes a good tool for debating different detailed interpretations of Hanyu Pinyin and different regional and colloquial pronunciations of Mandarin. Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 10:05
  • But you say "there is too little consensus about the exact details of either the descriptive or prescriptive phonology of Chinese". So what is it that makes a pinyin dictionary more suitable for describing the phonology, if it isn't that it has less precise descriptions of sounds?
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 11:58
  • Hanyu Pinyin, as required by the Constitution of the PRC, gives prescriptive phonology, not descriptive. Naturally it is supposed to be close to the way a lot of people grew up speaking. The Constitution specifies it should be based on but not identical to the usage of the Beijing area. It is better for Putonghua than IPA because it is aimed directly at what occurs in Putonghua (which itself is a prescribed language, also following the Constitution). Commented Sep 20, 2017 at 18:10
  • "better" how? easier to use?
    – jiggunjer
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 2:27

Wiktionary supplies IPA pronunciation for a wide variety of dialects, both ancient and modern, including tone numbers. It’s automatically generated from the pinyin.


Yes, I answered in another answer: What kind of resources should a beginner look for to help with similarly pronounced words?

https://github.com/open-dict-data/ipa-dict You may download the .dz file to be used in the open sourced program GoldenDict

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