Phonetic transcriptions serve the purpose of indicating the pronunciation, or phonology, of a word, as well indicating which syllable to stress in multisyllable words. Widely spoken languages, such as English and French, contain a great number of words with pronunciations that differ dramatically from their written, or orthographic, forms.
Any system of phonetic transcription used in dictionaries for orthographically representing phonology requires some degree of universal acceptance and consistently applied rules. Most American dictionaries for native English speakers use a system of respelling a word with diacritical marks over vowels and stress marks for syllables. An increasingly popular alternative is the International Phonetic Alphabet, which uses a system of letters and symbols derived from ancient Latin and Greek languages.