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Magnetic Phonetics
Second edition
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Magnetic Phonetics case   Magnetic Phonetics
Package includes magnets, IPA chart reference cards, cloth bag, rules


Magnetic Phonetics is a set of 276 magnetic tiles with all of the IPA symbols on them, including tiles for the diacritics. The symbol tiles (mostly 1/2" square) stick to refrigerators and metal file cabinets. With Magnetic Phonetics, you can practice using the IPA, create a wide variety of fun sound combinations and nonsense words, or even write a short shopping list phonetically.

Caution: contains small parts. Not for use by linguists under four years old.

IPA Crossword

IPA Crossword example

IPA Crossword is inspired by the ever-popular request for an IPA version of Scrabble. Magnetic Phonetics includes 120 tiles designed for broad transcription of English with a score on each tile. These tiles can be used to play IPA Crossword on a tabletop or a magnetic surface. We include a rules guide, a cloth bag to hold the tiles, and several IPA Chart reference cards with each set. IPA Crossword is an excellent way for students to practice using phonetic symbols, and is an entertaining change of pace even for seasoned linguists.

Several instructors have used Magnetic Phonetics in the classroom with great success, having students play in small groups. If you are looking for an educational IPA game to use with a large group, take a look at IPA Bingo.

IPA Crossword Game Board

IPA Crossword game board for Magnetic Phonetics

For added strategy and higher scores, use an IPA Crossword game board! This 11"x17" game board is designed to fit the Magnetic Phonetics tiles, has scoring bonus squares, and includes rules for play and scoring. You can download and print a free PDF file of the IPA Crossword game board, or you can buy a copy printed on glossy poster stock from our Cafepress shop.

Modifying the rules for IPA Crossword

You don't have to use all (or any) of the rules for IPA Crossword. However, you should always decide with the other players--before starting a game--which rules to use. Some possible modifications include:

  • Use fewer than eight tiles in your hand. (This generally makes the game harder.)

  • Do not allow proper names. (This definitely makes the game harder.)

  • Allow any sequence of sounds as long as the player can pronounce the sequence properly. (This is good practice in using the IPA symbols.)

  • Use more tiles in your hand (such as 12), and allow phrases. (This makes the game easier and creates a more spread-out board.)

  • Allow players to change the sound assigned to the blank character, as long as the resulting words are still valid words with that new sound.

  • Play in a language other than English. You will have to modify the tiles if you want to play in a significantly different dialect or language.

    About the 2nd edition

    In 2001, we added 14 common non-IPA phonetic symbols which were not in the original Magnetic Phonetics, and we removed extra copies of the IPA diacritics (though it still includes all of the IPA diacritics). After the IPA added the labiodental flap in 2005, we updated the IPA reference cards and added tiles for the labiodental flap, an asterisk, and a pointing finger.


    Jed Hartman and Charles Deily came up with the idea for Magnetic Phonetics and IPA Crossword. Jed also helped write the rules for IPA Crossword. Antony Green, Allard Jongman, Tami Kaplan, Lisa Lavoie, and Becky Letterman answered various technical questions and made wonderful suggestions, though they bear no responsibility for any errors in conception or execution. Thank you, all!

    Related items

  • IPA Bingo
  • International Phonetic Alphabet classroom poster at CafePress
  • IPA chart reference cards

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