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Translating Symbols

The "facts of life." Something that is an unfortunate but necessary part of the education of linguists is the translation of equivalent phonetic symbols. (Actually, "transliteration" would probably be a more accurate term.) There are several traditions within which different symbols have developed--to mention just two of the most influential, the International Phonetic Association, with deepest roots in Europe (and the British Isles especially), and a decidedly American tradition, developed by anthropological linguists who worked on the languages of the New World. Our textbook (which has its roots in Canada) has generally opted for the former, often called the International Phonetic Alphabet, or the "IPA" for short, whereas many Statside linguists use alternate symbols at several points. The Phonetic Symbol Guide published by the University of Chicago Press (by Geoffrey K. Pullum and William A. Ladusaw) in 1986 refers to these respectively as "IPA usage" and "American usage."

Complications. This discussion is complicated by esoteric symbols on both sides--symbols that are not on the usual typewriter or computer keyboard, and that therefore are difficult to show on the usual web page or send via email. We will attempt to get around this complication by several routes:

  1. On this page, we will use the names for some symbols (and descriptions of them) rather than the symbols themselves. Some of these names will be borrowed from the Phonetic Symbol Guide referred to above.

  2. For email, we will suggest alternate symbols (or combinations of symbols) that are available on computer keyboards. Here we will also mention, where applicable, a popular usage that is sometimes found in the comics and/or as phonetic respelling in dictionaries.

  3. We will also prepare this same page for reading and printing in Adobe Acrobat, where the esoteric symbols themselves can be used. It can be accessed here: "Translating Symbols" (with the symbols themselves).

The good news. The above facts of life and complications constitute "the bad news." The good news is that we will go into this subject only as deeply as necessary for the first unit in this course. Additional information will come with additional experience in the realm of phonetics.

Phonetic

Definition

IPA

Usage

(common names

in quotes)

American

Usage

(common names

in quotes)

Email

Alternative

(when

[bracketed])

Comics and

Dictionaries

American

English

Examples

(alveo)palatal

glide

j y [y] y yes
voiceless

(alveo)palatal

fricative

"esh"

(a long,

slim s)

"wedge s"

or "s wedge"

(an s with a

small v above)

[S] sh shin
voiced

(alveo)palatal

fricative

"yogh"

(a z with a tail

below the line)

"wedge z"

or "z wedge"

(a z with a

small v above)

[Z] zh Zsa Zsa
voiceless

alveopalatal

affricate

t + "esh"

(t-esh

ligature)

"wedge c"

or "c wedge"

(a c with a

small v above)

[C] ch chin
voiced

(alveo)palatal

affricate

d + "yogh"

(d-yogh

ligature)

"wedge j"

or "j wedge"

(a j with a

small v above)

[J] j gin
high front

rounded vowel

y "umlaut u"

or "u umlaut"

[u"]   German

su"ss

'sweet'

mid front

rounded vowel

"slashed o" "umlaut o"

or "o umlaut"

[o"]   German

scho"n

'beautiful'

high front

lax vowel

Greek

"iota"

small

capital i

[I]   pit
high back

lax vowel

Greek

"upsilon"

small

capital u

[U]   put
mid front

lax vowel

Greek

"epsilon"

("open e)

(same

as

IPA)

[eh] eh pet
mid back

lax vowel

"inverted v"

or "caret"

(same

as

IPA)

[uh] uh putt,

above

low front

tense vowel

"lower-case a" (same

as

IPA)

[a]   Park your

car in

Harvard yard

(Boston speech)

low front

lax vowel

"ash"

or "digraph"

(a-e ligature)

(same

as

IPA)

[ae]   cat
low back

tense vowel

(rounded)

"open o"

(c "turned" = rotated

180 degrees)

(defined as lower

mid rather than low)

(same as IPA, except

sometimes defined as

simply lo: alternative

symbol for IPA

"turned script a")

[O] aw caught

(when

distinguished

from

cot)

low back

lax vowel

(unrounded)

"script a" (same as IPA) [A] ah cot,

father

mid central

weak vowel

(reduced,

unstressed)

"schwa"

(inverted e)

(same as IPA) [E]   above

Rosa's

Justus

high central

vowel

"barred i"

(i with strikethrough)

(same as IPA,

but may be defined as

weak, reduced, and

and unstressed

--higher than schwa)

[ih]   writing

roses

justice

voiceless

(inter)dental

fricative

Greek

"theta"

(same as IPA) [th] th thin

ether

bath

voiced

(inter)dental

fricative

"eth"

(d with

tilted-back stem

and crossbar)

(same as IPA) [TH] TH then

either

bathe

 

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