Why incomplete subscript/superscript alphabet ?

Julian Bradfield jcb+unicode at inf.ed.ac.uk
Tue Oct 11 03:39:06 CDT 2016

On 2016-10-10, Hans Åberg <haberg-1 at telia.com> wrote:
> 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.

Continuous variation is a universal truth of language.
The IPA has mechanisms for describing crude differences in voicing,
but if you're working at the level of, say, a difference between 0 ms
and 20 ms in average voice onset time, you need to be using numbers and
instruments, not symbols and the ear.

The most extreme attempt I know to extend the IPA to fine phonetic detail
is Canepari's book, with lots of symbols not in Unicode (I
think...it's a long whlie since I looked at). It's completely ignored,
because the level of detail he attempts to represent is well beyond
the reproducible abilities of phoneticians unaided by acoustic

> 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].

Are you talking about American flapping, where a /t/ between vowels is
realized as [ɾ]? I'd be surprised if any very serious dictionaries
use <d> to represent that - can you give an example?

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

This is also a universal truth of language! But it doesn't stop us
making sensible abstractions, and notating them symbolically.

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