WordWizard: ECPC Phonics System

WordWizard: ECPC Phonics System

ECPC is short for Electronic Computer Phonetic Code. It is used in WordWizard’s Phonics Mode to represent the names of phonemes making up a word. It is an accurate and unambiguous way of representing the way that a word is pronounced. ECPC does not use confusing phonetic symbols, unlike the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA).  Instead, phoneme names are formed from alphabetic characters plus the apostrophe.  

A word’s orthographic (conventional) spelling is often significantly different from its ECPC. The student can discover the orthographic  spelling of a word simply by inputting the correct ECPC when working in WordWizard’s Phonics Mode.  The user has no need to worry about such things as doubled consonants, silent letters, ambiguous vowels, capitalisation or hyphenation.

By comparing ECPC with orthographic spellings, WordWizard users quickly appreciate the various ways in which the same phoneme can be represented in orthographic spellings of different words. For instance, ECPC input of “riit” will reveal the orthographic spellings “right”, “wright”, “Wright” and “rite”. Much of the personal stress produced by trying to spell soon disappears once the student can start to rationalise the apparent chaotic spelling in the English language.

When searching for an orthographic spelling in Phonics Mode the student first needs to sound out the word. They then successively type in ECPC phoneme names. The user will soon realise that accurate input of ECPC code produces the word’s correct pronunciation. This then allows the required word(s) to be identified, along with their orthographic spelling. Once the student becomes confident with the conventional spelling they can switch to WordWizard’s Orthographic Mode and experiment with similarly spelt words, e.g. plurals, verb conjugations and rhyming words. They will also quickly become aware of the existence and importance of homophones.

WordWizard’s text-to-speech (TTS) system can be used at any point so that the user can confirm both their ECPC input and the orthographic output produced. 


The ECPC scheme is very similar to the phonics systems used in many UK schools and recognises 42 phonemes in total: 23 consonant phonemes and 19 vowel phonemes. 


The consonant phonemes

Consonants are represented by: b, ch, d, f, g, h, j, jh, k, l, m, n, ng, p, r, s, sh, t, th, v, w, y and z.

The letter q is not used at all; see below for the letters c and x.

The phoneme th covers both of the slightly different phonemes represented by “th” in the words “thick” (unvoiced) and “then” (voiced).  Some phonics systems use dth to represent the latter.

Examples of the incidence of the various consonant phonemes :

b  as in “baby”;    ch  as in “church”;    d  as in “daddy”;    f  as in “fluff”;    g  as in “gag”;

h  as in “haha”;    j  as in “judge”;   jh  as in “treasure”;     k  as in “cackle”;    l  as in “lull”;    m  as in “mummy”;

n  as in “nanny”;    ng  as in “singing”;   p  as in “puppy”;    r  as in “roaring”;    s  as in “saucy” and “fits“;

sh  as in “shatter”;    t  as in “tatter”;    th  as in “that” or “thin”;    v  as in “verve”;

w  as in “wigwam”;    y  as in “yellow”;    z  as in “zebras”.


The vowel phonemes

ECPC recognises vowels with phoneme names a, e, i, o, u, aa, ai, au, ee, eu, ii, oa, oi, oo, ou, ue and the Schwa. Some phonics systems adopt phoneme names which contain consonants, such as: ah, air, ar, are, aw, ay, er, ew, ey, ir, oh, or, ow, oy, ur, ure and uy but WordWizard avoids this potential confusion. 

Most of these phoneme names are commonly found in conventional spellings with the same phonetic value: ai as in “tail”, au as in “taut”, ee as in “feel”, oa as in “coat”, oi as in “boil”, oo as in “book”, ou as in “sound”,  ue as in “true”. 

Conversely, the Schwa has no specific representation in written English but is the phoneme used most often in the spoken language. It is a very short vowel sound and is effectively unvoiced.  It occurs in the word “announce” as “a” and in “parliament” as both “ia” and “e”. In ECPC the Schwa is represented by an apostrophe (‘), hence the ECPC representation of “parliament” as paal’m’nt. WordWizard is particularly useful in helping the student identify the correct orthographic spelling relating to the spoken Schwa.

WordWizard also recognises two ‘extended’ vowel phoneme names produced by adding the Schwa to other phonemes, viz: e’ and ee’.

The complete set of vowel phoneme names is therefore:

a, e, i, o, u, aa, ai, au, ee, eu, ii, oa, oi, oo, ou, ue, e’, ee’ and ‘ (Schwa).

Examples of the incidence of the various vowel phonemes :

a as in “cat”;    e as in “egg”;    i as in “tin”;    o  as in “not”;    u as in “but”;

aa as in “haar” and “farmer”;    ai  as in “fail” and “made“;    au as in “taut” and “port”;   

ee as in “seed” and “clean”;    eu as in “chauffeur” and “bird”;   

ii as in “tied”, “fight” and “line“;   

oa as in “coat” and “poke“;    oi as in “toil” and “buoy“;    oo as in “book” ;    ou as in “shout”;   

ue as in “boom” and “route”; 

e’ as in “air”;    ee’ as in “beer”;   

‘ (Schwa) as in “again”; “garden”; “pencil”; “iron”; “crocus”.

Additional extended vowel phonemes will be produced by adding the Schwa to various long vowels within the Crux but they do not need to be considered specifically by the user for input as separate entities:  

 ii’ as in “fire”;    oa’ as in “lower”;    oi’ as in “lawyer”;    oo’ as in “moor”;    ou’ as in “flour”;    ue’ as in “sewer“;


Alternative phoneme names

WordWizard allows the use of some alternatives to the regular ECPC phoneme names for use in Phonics Mode.

The letter c can be used for input instead of k, where it has a hard sound, but not instead of s where it has soft sound. Therefore, “cat” can be represented as “c+a+t” but “cell” cannot be represented as “c+e+l”.

The phoneme jh (which represents “s” in the word “treasure”) can be replaced by sh if there is uncertainty about this sound.

Within the Crux (but not the Lock) the phoneme x can be used to represent the consonant pair ks.

Many phonic systems vary slightly from the ECPC system in regard to the phoneme names of vowels. Some users and tutors may prefer to use alternatives with which they are familiar.

The following alternatives can be used when typing phonemes without changing any settings in WordWizard.

ar instead of aa           or instead of au           air instead of e’          ear instead of ee’            igh instead of ii  

ire instead of ii’          our instead of ou’       ure instead of oo’ or ue’     er/ir/ur instead of eu           

The representation of phonemes using the ECPC scheme in WordWizard should be similar to that adopted within the school. If not, they can be suitably modified to provide an exact match. We hope that evaluators will experiment with ECPC in its unamended form and report back on whether they find the scheme to be preferable to  other phonics systems.