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(Offlist) Re: ASCII IPA

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Sunday, August 18, 2002, 21:30
Hello Philip--
(Replying privately, since it seems that whenever I discuss US phonemics on
the list, it occasions a lot of static from Australia ;-)  )

>(For example, I suppose one could also use Smith-Trager phonemic >analysis, or whatever it's called, when discussing English, which >distinguishes the two pronunciations of "read" as /riyd/ and /red/, >IIRC. But I prefer to write /i:/ rather than /iy/, assuming the length >is phonemic [which it isn't in English -- so I write a broad phonetic >transcription rather than a phonemic one, strictly speaking. I also >distinguish between shwa and /V/, the vowel sound I use in "up"].)
I cut my teeth on Trager-Smith, and still find it very useful (and I think most US linguists do too). So /riyd/ 'read (present)', vs. /rid/ 'rid' captures the tense/lax distinction (or close/open to be more IPA-correct) quite nicely. Using /i:/ for /iy/ is not, at the phonemic level, actually focusing on the length-- it's just another, abstract, way of showing the tenseness; so /ri:d/ vs. /rid/. Note that 'beet, beat' and 'bit' (where the vowels are indeed shorter than in 'read' and 'rid', would also be written as /bi:t/ vs. /bit/. Seems to me this is the preferred British usage. Both of these were developed, I suspect, mainly to fit the old typewriter keyboard, and to accomodate printers who didn't have IPA fonts. Another British usage has the actual IPA symbols-- /bid/ vs. /bId/ (the latter with "small cap. i"), or /red/ 'raid' vs. /rEd/ (IPA epsilon) 'red'-- never popular in this country. Apparently British printers had more access to real IPA fonts or at least the Greek alphabet....... And some would claim, in US speech anyway, that schwa and [V], while indeed phonetically distinct, are in complimentary distribution-- schwa unstressed, [V] stressed, so theoretically can be phonemicized with a single symbol. But I think most of us use two symbols just to avoid ambiguity. (I suspect I'm telling you things you already know............) Roger.