The Uralic Phonetic Alphabet (UPA) or Finno-Ugric transcription system is a phonetic transcription or notational system used predominantly for the transcription and reconstruction of Uralic languages. It was first published in 1901 by Eemil Nestor Setälä, a Finnish linguist.
Unlike the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) notational standard which concentrates on accurately and uniquely transcribing the phonemes of a language, the UPA is also used to denote the functional categories of a language, as well as their phonetic quality. For this reason, it is not possible to automatically convert a UPA transcription into an IPA one.
Unlike the IPA, which is usually transcribed with upright characters, the UPA is usually transcribed with italic characters. Although many of its characters are also used in standard Latin, Greek, Cyrillic orthographies or the IPA, and are found in the corresponding Unicode blocks, many are not. These have been encoded in the Phonetic Extensions and Phonetic Extensions Supplement blocks. Font support for these extended characters is very rare; Code2000 and Fixedsys Excelsior are two fonts that do support them. A professional font containing them is Andron Mega; it supports UPA characters in Regular and Italics.
Other vowels are denoted using diacritics.
The UPA also uses three characters to denote a vowel of uncertain quality:
If a distinction between close-mid vowels and open-mid vowels is needed, the IPA symbols for the open-mid basic front illabial and back labial vowels, ??? and ???, can be used. However, in keeping with the principles of the UPA, the open-mid front labial and back illabial vowels are still transcribed with the addition of diacritics, as ?? and ??.
The following table describes the consonants of the UPA. Note that the UPA does not distinguish voiced fricatives from approximants, and does not contain many characters of the IPA such as [?].
|Prepalatal (palatalised or anterior)||?||?||j|
When there are two or more consonants in a column, the rightmost one is voiced; when there are three, the centre one is partially devoiced.
? denotes a voiced velar spirant.
? denotes a voiced laryngeal spirant.
|ä||U+0308||-||umlaut above||Palatal (fully front) vowel|
|?||U+0323||dot below||Palatal (fronted) variant of vowel|
|a?||U+032E||breve below||Velar (fully back or backed) vowel or variant of vowel|
|?||U+0304||macron||Long form of a vowel; also by duplication|
|a?||U+0354||left arrowhead below||Retracted form of a vowel or consonant|
|a?||U+0355||right arrowhead below||Advanced form of a vowel or consonant|
|a?||U+032D||circumflex below||Raised variant of a vowel|
|a?||U+032C||caron below||Lowered variant of a vowel|
|?||U+0306||breve||Shorter or reduced vowel|
|a?||U+032F||inverted breve below||Non-syllabic, glide or semi-vowel|
|?||U+0280||small capital||Unvoiced or partially voiced version of voiced sound|
|?||superscripted character||Very short sound|
|?||subscripted character||Coarticulation due to surrounding sounds|
|?||U+1D1E||Rotated (180°) or sideways (-90°)||Reduced form of sound|
A major difference is that IPA notation allows distinguishing between phonetic and phonemic transcription, by enclosing the transcription between either brackets [a? p?i: e?] or slashes /ai pi e/. UPA has no corresponding standard, and context must be relied upon to distinguish the closeness of transcription.
For phonetic transcription, numerous small differences from IPA come into relevance:
|Close-mid back rounded vowel||o?||[o]|
|Mid back rounded vowel||o||[o?] or |
|Open-mid back rounded vowel||o? or å?||[?]|
|Voiced dental fricative||?||[ð]|
|Voiceless alveolar lateral approximant||?||[l?]|
|Velar lateral approximant||?||[?]|
|Voiceless alveolar nasal||?||[n?]|
This section contains some sample words from both Uralic languages and English (using Australian English) along with comparisons to the IPA transcription.