Saturday 8 September 2012

Mediaeval IPA symbols

Last weekend I was in Salerno with friends. As you probably know, Salerno is a city in south-western Italy located near the so-called Costiera amalfitana, the 'Amalfi Coast', which includes the famous towns of Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and Sorrento.

Overlooking the city of Salerno is a mediaeval castle known to Italians as Castello di Arechi. The castle was built in the seventh century AD on behalf of Prince Arechi II and hosts an interesting exhibition of mostly mediaeval ceramics and coins, and a conference room.

After parking our car we made for the entrance gate, the position of which was clearly indicated by this sign: 

'Main entrance' - 'Lift'

Notice anything peculiar about it? Yes, some of the letters used include IPA symbols! 

When I asked one of the guides at the castle why they had decided to use this particular style of letters, she answered that she didn't know and added that she was totally unaware that some of the symbols on the signs were used in phonetics.

Here are some more pictures I took: how many IPA symbols can you spot?   

'Museum' - 'Conference hall' - 'Aragonese moat'

'Exit' - 'Western gate'

'Please do not enter - work in progress'


'Central keep' - 'Battlements'

'Old ogive gate'

'Museum' - 'Conference room'


  1. Horrible! Reminds me of those instances of "faux Cyrillic" -- e.g. ЯUSSIAИ -- so beloved of advertising copywriters and other publicists.

  2. Horrible ? Not for me. Indeed, I rather admire it from an æsthetic/typographic point of view. I use a "faux Indian" font (Samarkan : to label my spice jars, which also appeals to my sense of æsthetics.