The IPA Unicode Friendliness Test


When I'm doing an initial test to see if a product is Unicode friendly or not, I typically switch to my IPA keyboard and see if it will accept and display phonetic character input. Why this test?

The first reason is that I actually know my phonetic symbols and can type something pretty quickly. They're also a fairly straightforward Western type alphabet so there are minimal font display issues.

The second is that while developers may program specific support for East Asian, Cyrillic or Middle Eastern languages, they rarely build in IPA phonetic symbol support (unless the product is targeted towards linguists). So, if the product can handle phonetics, it's a very good sign that generalized Unicode support has been implemented.

Does it mean every script is equally supported? Probably not. The gotchas are usually RTL languages like Arabic and Hebrew and the dead scripts like Gothic and Linear B. But if you have IPA support, you probably also have basic support for Czech, Welsh, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian and maybe Armenian and Georgian. That does cover a lot of territory believe it or not.

About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage ( for a profile.


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