Why incomplete subscript/superscript alphabet ?

Hans Åberg haberg-1 at telia.com
Mon Oct 10 17:05:20 CDT 2016

> On 10 Oct 2016, at 23:39, Doug Ewell <doug at ewellic.org> wrote:
> Hans Åberg wrote:
>>>>> What do you mean? The IPA in narrow transcription is intended to
>>>>> provide as detailed a description as a human mind can manage of
>>>>> sounds.
>>>> It is designed for phonemic transcriptions, cf.,
>>>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_International_Phonetic_Alphabet
>>> It *was* designed, in 1870-something. Try reading the Handbook of the
>>> IPA. It contains many samples of languages transcribed both in a
>>> broad phonemic transcription appropriate for the language, and in a
>>> narrow phonetic transcription which should allow a competent
>>> phonetician to produce an understandable and reasonably accurate
>>> rendition of the passage.
>> But the alveolar clicks requires an extension.
> You've found ONE instance of non-distorted speech where IPA does not
> distinguish between two allophones. That is very different from saying
> that IPA is unsuitable for phonetic transcription.

There are others, for example, in Dutch, the letter "v" and in "van" is pronounced in dialects in continuous variations between [f] and [v] depending on the timing of the fricative and the following vowel. It has become popular in some dictionaries to use [d] in the AmE where the BrE uses [t], but when listening, it sounds more like a [t] drawn towards [d]. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has its own system trying to capture variations.

One does not really speak separate consonants and vowels, but they slide over and adapt. Describing that is pretty tricky.

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