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Re: / / vs [ ]

From:Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Date:Friday, January 4, 2002, 21:55
On 4 Jan 02, at 13:05, Clint Jackson Baker wrote:

> I think I've been confusing when to use // vs. [].
AFAIK // is for phonemic rendition (where you indicate phonemes) and [] is for phonetic rendition (where you render phones). I've also seen <> used to indicate orthographic conventions. Basically, [] is for more or less strict rendition of the sounds produced, while // is only concerned with the phonemes of the given language (which sounds actually are considered different by speakers of the language). Say, for example, that you have a language where a certain consonsant is [g] between vowels (intervocalically?) and [k] elsewhere, and which has [g] only between vowels and only with this consonant. Then you might say that your language has a phoneme /k/ which is realised as [k] or [g] depending on the environment, but there is no /g/, since this language has no phoneme /g/ that is separate from /k/ (for example, there are no minimal pairs and the two phonemes are in complementary distribution[1]). So if you want to talk about a certain word, you might write it phonemically as /taka/ or phonetically as [taga]. The information that the phoneme /k/ is realised as [g] in this environment is present only in the phonetic rendition (in square brackets), but not in the phonemic rendition (in slashes) because it's not a separate phoneme. Similarly, in English, /k/ can be either [k] or [k'] (that is, aspirated), but they're the same phoneme. You can write /kin/ and /skin/ even when many people pronounce [k'in] and [skin]. (Then there's also "broad" and "narrow" phonetic representation, depending on how much detail you go into in phonetic representation.) Or the /l/ which is different in <lick> and <bell> ("dark" and "light" <l>, but I'm not sure which is which). Most English speakers would probably not consider those two k's or those two l's as being different, which makes sense, since they're the same phoneme. Hope that clears things up a bit... I'm not sure how well I explained things. Cheers, Philip [1] However, the fact that two phonemes are in complementary distribution does not necessarily mean that they are identical; for example, in English, /N/ and /h/ are in complementary distribution -- one can only occur syllable-finally and one only syllable-initially -- but I don't think anyone considers them allophones of the same phoneme! -- Philip Newton <Philip.Newton@...>