If you’ve looked up a name on Wikipedia, you might have noticed that pronunciation guides are written in a script that is unlike the language the rest of the article is written in. This is because Wikipedia uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (the IPA, for short) to convey the pronunciation of words. For example, looking up ‘Zimbabwe’ will return an article that also mentions /zɪmˈbɑːbweɪ,-wi/.  This represents two different pronunciations of the country’s name. Specifically, the last syllable is different, and the alternate pronunciations are separated by a comma.
Image: Screenshot of the IPA chart revised to 2015, showing consonants at the top, followed by vowels, other symbols, diacritics and suprasegmentals. Unlike the other classes of sounds which are displayed in tables of lists, the vowels are displayed in a trapezium diagram, and each point corresponds to approximately where a vowel is produced in the mouth. Sourced from the International Phonetic Association 
What is the IPA?
The IPA chart is meant to give us a standardized way to represent human speech across all languages. Items on the chart are organized by how the vocal anatomy, such as the tongue and teeth, behaves to produce a sound [7, p.1]. Because a particular symbol always corresponds to the same sound, the IPA potentially could represent human languages in a convenient way that would not be possible if the orthography of a particular language was used [7, p.4].
Consider the English language in its written form. For most dialects, the letter ‘a’ is read differently in the following words: acorn, arson and annul. The IPA could be used to describe the three different sounds that occur at the beginning of each word.
The IPA Began in Europe
Although the IPA is a useful tool for transcribing speech sounds all over the world, it was historically created in Europe, a history that influences aspects of its development. The organization in charge of the IPA, the International Phonetic Association (confusingly, sharing the same acronym as the alphabet) was founded by English and French-speaking linguists [7, p.4]. This might be reflected for example, in how in 1888, the languages cited in the IPA were all European. Centrally, English, French and German were used to demonstrate sounds, with a separate category for ‘other languages’, which included more European languages, such as Swedish, Spanish and Flemish .
An encyclopedia entry quotes the organisation’s principles of 1888 saying they wanted to use symbols to represent sounds in a way that would be similar to “familiar” sound-symbol mappings [7, p.5]. At one point, clicks, which are prominent for example in Southern African languages [7, p.1] were removed from consonants and put into the category of ‘other’ symbols [1, p. 19]. Now, clicks are considered non-pulmonic consonants, but the fact that their status as consonants was challenged could suggest the dominance of European norms.
Additionally, though the IPA was first introduced to the public in 1888 as an alphabet with descriptive labels,  the Japanese linguist Tsutomu Akamatsu notes that many English dictionaries made in the USA at the time of the 1990s still did not normally use the IPA [1, p.9], which could further suggest its linkage with European academia.
The 1989 Revision
Many changes have been made to the IPA since its inception, as more languages have been studied and documented. Zimman notes that the 1989 revision in particular was a major one [7, p.5]. The International Phonetic Association met in Kiel, Germany to revise the 1979 version of the chart, and the new revision was approved with twenty votes for and three against, suggesting the changes were somewhat controversial [1, p.9]. However, it is difficult to say based on this exactly how controversial they were, since the members could only vote yes or no [1, p.9].
One example of the changes that were made in this revision was the removal of two categories of sounds: ‘labial-palatal’ and ‘labial-velar’. These were sounds that were produced in two areas of the vocal anatomy – the lips and hard palate (roof of the mouth), and the lips and velum (an area close to the back of the mouth, otherwise called the soft palate). The sounds formerly in those categories were placed in ‘other symbols’, which Akamatsu suggests was a dismissive move [1, p.13].
Another feature that was changed was the classification of ‘pulmonic’ sounds. Pulmonic sounds are those produced through an exhalation of air from the lungs. Interestingly, Akamatsu also comments on the distinction between pulmonic and non-pulmonic sounds being “abandoned” in the 1989 revision. They suggest that this distinction, present in the 1979 version, was portrayed in a binary way and made pulmonic consonants appear to be the norm [1, p.17]. However, as can be seen in the chart above, the distinction is nowadays retained, with pulmonic and non-pulmonic consonants appearing in separate charts.
Today, the way sounds are presented in the chart arguably still reflect the dominance of European languages as ‘the norm’. The IPA mainly uses Roman characters to represent sounds, for example with symbols such as [k], [t] and [b], with the additions of characters from other European alphabets, including Greek. The use of diacritics, which are the accents added to the symbols such as a tilde or a dot, might imply that the ‘basic’ symbol is the norm, whereas the one modified with a diacritic is outside the norm [7, p.5].
Overall, while the IPA has its strengths in representing speech sounds in a convenient way, it also has features that arguably reflect its European origins. The implications of this could include an unsatisfactory depiction of non-European languages or an inequality in exactly how useful or convenient a tool this alphabet makes between European languages and languages from the rest of the world.
 Akamatsu, T. (1992). "A critique of the IPA chart (revised to 1951, 1979 and 1989)". Contextos Magazine. 10 (19–20): 7–45.
 Akamatsu, T. (2003–2004). "A critique of the IPA chart (revised to 1996)". Contextos Magazine. 21–22 (41–44): 135–149.
 IPA Chart, http://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/content/ipa-chart, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License. Copyright © 2018 International Phonetic Association.
 Macmahon, M. (1986). The International Phonetic Association: The first 100 years. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 16(1), 30-38. doi:10.1017/S002510030000308X
 Udomkesmalee, N. (2018). Historical charts of the International Phonetic Alphabet. https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/IPAcharts/IPA_hist/IPA_hist_2018.html
Wikipedia contributors. (2021, August 10). Zimbabwe. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:09, August 10, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Zimbabwe&oldid=1038014153
 Zimman, L. (2021). International Phonetic Alphabet. In The International Encyclopedia of Linguistic Anthropology, J. Stanlaw (Ed.). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118786093.iela0179