Ask IPA Source: Are apostrophes in Italian IPA transcriptions the accents?

An IPA Source customer asks:

Are apostrophes in Italian IPA transcriptions the accents? I was told to look for underlined syllables which denote that they are accented.

Bard answers:

Underlined vowels are sometimes used to indicate word stress in IPA transcriptions of singing texts (John Paton’s editions come to mind) but while quite clear, this is not considered the proper usage. The appropriate symbols to indicate stress are the primary and secondary stress marks placed before the stressed syllable. Here is an example of both stress marks (your “apostrophes” and what looks like a comma) quoted from the “Handbook of the International Phonetic Association” on page 43.

phonetician  [ˌfonə’tɪʃən]

At IPA Source we also add syllable dots (periods, if you like) which denote the division of syllables within the word. The syllable dot is less commonly seen in transcriptions but nonetheless, it is an accepted IPA symbol that I feel is helpful for singers when dividing syllables between the musical notes of a song.

phonetician  [ˌfo.nə.’tɪ.ʃən]

This is the convention we follow at IPA Source.

Thanks for writing!

International Phonetic Association. (2007). Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the international phonetic alphabet. Cambridge [u.a.] Univ. Press.

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