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Re: Phonetics vs. Phonemics

From:Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 23:49
On Mon, 27 Feb 2006 11:05:39 -0500, Philip Newton
<philip.newton@...> wrote:

> On 2/27/06, Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...> wrote: >> It is, and that's exactly what the IPA does. It defines canonical >> "platinum-irridium" readings of each of its symbols -- targets, if you >> will, from which any given language, dialect or accent differs by a >> more or less specified amount. The only officially approved way to >> learn the IPA correctly is to learn it directly from one of their >> "Grand Master"s (or whatever the term is), who have all been trained on >> the exact target sounds and articulations by another previous "Grand >> Master". The existence of audio tapes, CDs and computer sound files is >> a partial substitute for this process, but does not come close to the >> level of personal tuition and guidance offered by official training. >> Learning the IPA by reading is the third rung, and according to some, >> it's quite a step down. > > Interesting; I had heard this about "cardinal vowels" (that they are, > strictly speaking, passed on from master to student and "cannot" be > conveyed by recordings or descriptions in writing), but hadn't about > IPA "platinum-iridium" pronunciations.
I believe the consonants have ideal norms, too, which must be equally learned directly from someone who has been judged as knowing them perfectly. The term "platinum-irridium" was just a figure of speech (and it strikes me that I've spelled it wrongly, there's only one "r" in iridium), meaning the standard by which all others are measured, refering to the official SI kilogram, kept locked in a vault in Paris, and made of (unsurprisingly) one kilogram of (perhaps surprisingly) platinum-iridium alloy. There used to be a standard meter made of the same stuff, in the same vault, but distance is now defined in terms of the speed of light in a vaccuum, which is less variant -- the standard kilogram is losing a nontrivial amount of mass every day, which amounts to something like 500 nanograms per year (IIRC). Paul