Could you come up with an explanation why the same adjective "physical" has two IPA renderings of the same pronunciation?

Oxford Learners Dictionary: /ˈfɪzɪkl/ (that is the /ə/ is missed in spelling, but heard):

The rest of English dictionaries: /ˈfi-zi-kəl/

Physical - LDOCE

Is there something particular here, or just a typographical error? P.S. I have checked logical, the same difference in "spelling” of the pronunciation.


2 Answers 2


Different dictionaries use different symbols to transcribe the same sound. So you'll see different transcriptions such as:

  • /ˈfɪzɪkəl/
  • /ˈfɪzɪkl/
  • /ˈfɪzɪkl̩/
  • /ˈfɪzɪkəl/
  • /ˈfɪzɪk(ə)l/

The last syllable is unstressed and has an obstruent (/t p k s z/ etc) followed by a sonorant (/l m n/ etc). When an obstruent is followed by a Sonorant in the same unstressed syllable, the sonorant is usually syllabic (i.e. it forms a syllable on its own).

The same thing happens in the last syllable of physical. The /l/ is syllabic and the air is released laterally, so some dictionaries transcribe it /ˈfɪzɪkl/ or /ˈfɪzɪkl̩/. Most people, however, pronounce it with an intervening vowel, so some dictionaries transcribe it with a vowel: /ˈfɪzɪkəl/.

Other examples are:

  • bottle → /ˈbɒtəl/ or /ˈbɒtl̩//
  • button → /ˈbʌtn̩/ or /ˈbʌtən/
  • prism →/ˈprɪzəm/ or /ˈprɪzm̩/
  • -ism → /-ɪzəm/ or /-ɪzm̩/

(In the last three words, the air is released nasally.)

Both the transcriptions are correct. Also note that dictionaries are often inconsistent with their use of IPA.


Both pronunciations are correct. ˈfi-zi-kəl' is used when speaking slowly. In normal pace, it is usually ˈfi-zi-kl'. There are no errors.

  • Its not because of the speed of speech .... I can pronounce it either way regardless of the speed of my speech
    – Void
    Feb 13, 2021 at 7:07

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