We use IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) to show the pronunciation of words and phrases, because it is the most accurate way to describe the pronunciation of the phrases. IPA is mostly based on the Latin alphabet, like our own writing system. Even though there is a lot of overlap, there are several symbols that you may be unfamiliar with. We shall describe those for you.
The /slashes/ are used to indicate a type of phonetic transcription, in this case, not quite surface form (exact pronunciation), but close, as we can never be 100% sure of how the languages would be spoken. Surface form would be written in [brackets].
Periods are used to show syllable boundaries.
‹ˈ› is used to show primary stress - a syllable said louder than other syllables. It goes directly before the syllable it is marking.
‹ˌ› is used to show secondary stress - a syllable said louder than other syllables, but not as loud as the primary stress. It goes directly before the syllable it is marking.
‹:› is used to mark long length, as in "the duration of time that the sound is said". This mark will be placed after a vowel to show that it is said longer than normal. The same is achieved in consonants by simply doubling the consonant.
‹ˑ› is like ‹:›, but half as long. You'll see this symbol appear in Sindarin transcriptions only, as Sindarin words have three different vowel lengths!
‹a› is like the A in "father".
‹ɛ› is like the E in "bet".
‹e› is like the A in "bait".
‹i› is like the I in "machine".
‹o› is like the O in "oat".
‹ɔ› is like the AU in "laud". If your dialect of English can't tell the difference between this sound and the A in "father", say an /a/ with the lips pursed like the /o/.
‹u› is like the U in "Luke".
‹y› is like the U in the French word "lune". If you are unfamiliar with French, make an /i/ with your lips pursed like a /u/.
Diphthongs (Two vowels smushed together)
‹aj› is like the I in "time".
‹aɛ› is similar to /aj/ but you end on a /ɛ/ instead of an /i/. You can find examples of this in Japanese, like in the verb "kaeru".
‹au› is like the OU in "out".
‹aw› is like OW in "cow". It's found only at the ends of words, or when before another vowel. The /w/ will behave like a transition between syllables.
‹ej› is like the AY in "ray".
‹iu› is like the EW in "mew".
‹ɛu› is like /iu/ above, except with an /ɛ/ instead of a /i/.
‹ɔj› is like the OY in "boy".
‹ɔɛ› is similar to /ɔj/ but you end on an /ɛ/ instead of an /i/.
‹uj› is like the WEE in "sweet", just with more emphasis on the W than the EE.
Doubled consonants are consonants said for a longer duration of time.
‹j› is like the Y in "yellow".
‹ʲ› is the little /j/ sound heard before a vowel, like in the words "cute", "music", and "human".
‹ʷ› is the little /w/ sound heard before a vowel, like in the words "queen", "quake", and "twelve".
‹l̡› is an L, with your tongue touching the soft, squishy roof of your mouth instead of the hard ridge behind your teeth.
‹ɬ› is said like the Welsh double L, or a drunk slurring S's and L's together. It sounds kinda like the SH sound.
‹r› is always rolled or trilled.
‹r̊› is a voiceless or whispered rolled R.
‹x› is like the CH in "loch" or "Bach". To we native English speakers, it sounds like an over-emphasized H.
‹θ› is like the TH in "nothing".
‹ð› is like the TH in "rather".
‹ʍ› is like the W in "white". This sound is quickly dying out in English, so you may think of it also as a voiceless or whispered /w/.
‹ŋ› is like the NG in "sing".