Journal of the International Phonetic Association

Research Article

The case for the epsilon symbol (ε) in RP dress

Holger Schmitta1

a1 Department of Foreign Languages University of Koblenz-Landau


In this article, I will argue for the use of the epsilon symbol in the lexical dress set (which includes words like step, ready, said, shelf etc.) for RP. The need for this paper arises from the fact that many, but by no means all, dictionaries and linguistic treatises employ the [ē] symbol and that this symbol is neither the most accurate nor a particularly useful one, especially for foreign learners of English. An examination of current usage and its historical rationale (or lack thereof) is followed by articulatory and perceptual evidence for the dress vowel being close to the third cardinal vowel, more practical arguments, and a discussion of the issues raised.