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23 How to represent pronunciation in ASCII




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This article is from the alt.usage.english FAQ, by Mark Israel misrael@scripps.edu with numerous contributions by others.

23 How to represent pronunciation in ASCII


Beware of using ad hoc methods to indicate pronunciation. The
problem with ad hoc methods is that they often wrongly assume your
dialect to have certain features in common with the readers'
dialect. You may pronounce "bother" to rhyme with "father"; some of
the readers here don't. You may pronounce "cot" and "caught" alike;
some of the readers here don't. You may pronounce "caught" and
"court" alike; some of the readers here don't.

The standard way to represent pronunciation (used in the latest
British Dictionaries and by linguists worldwide) is the
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For a complete guide to
the IPA, see "Phonetic Symbol Guide" by Geoffrey K. Pullum and
William A. Ladusaw (University of Chicago Press, 1986, ISBN
0-226-68532-2). IPA uses many special symbols; on the Net, where
we're restricted to ASCII symbols, we must find a way to make do.

The following scheme is due to Evan Kirshenbaum
(kirshenbaum@hpl.hp.com). The complete scheme can be accessed on
the WWW at:
<http://www.hpl.hp.com/personal/Evan_Kirshenbaum/IPA/>
I show here only examples for the sounds most often referred to in
this newsgroup. Where there are two columns, the left column shows
British Received Pronunciation (RP), and the right column shows a
rhotic pronunciation used by at least some U.S. speakers. (There's
a WWW page that shows what the IPA symbols look like:
<http://www.unil.ch/ling/phonetique/api2.html>.)
The IPA itself has a home page:
<http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/IPA/ipa.html>.

The consonant symbols [b], [d], [f], [h], [k], [l], [m], [n], [p],
[r], [s], [t], [v], [w], and [z] have their usual English values.

[A] = [<script a>] as in:
	"ah"	 	/A:/		/A:/
	"cart"   	/kA:t/ 		/kArt/
	"father" 	/'fA:D@/        /'fA:D@r/
	"farther"	/'fA:D@/	/'fArD@r/
	and French "bas" /bA/.  This sound requires opening your
	mouth wide and feeling resonance at the back of your mouth.
[A.] = [<turned script a>] as in British:
	"bother"	/'bA.D@/
	"cot"		/kA.t/
	"hot"		/hA.t/
	"sorry"		/'sA.rI/
	This symbol (for the sound traditionally called "short o")
	is not much used to transcribe U.S. pronunciation.  [A] or
	[O] is used instead, according to which vowels the speaker
	merges; but the sound *used* by *many* such speakers will
	certainly be *heard* by Britons as [A.].  The sound is
	intermediate between [A] and [O], but typically of shorter
	duration than either.  Imagine Patrick Stewart saying "Tea,
	Earl Grey, hot."
[a] as in French "ami" /a'mi/, German "Mann" /man/, Italian "pasta"
	/'pasta/, Chicago "pop" /pap/, Boston "park" /pa:k/.  Also
	in diphthongs: "dive" /daIv/ (yes, folks, the sound
	traditionally called "long i" is actually a diphthong!),
	"out" /aUt/.  Typically, [a] is not distinguished
	phonemically from [A]; but if you use in "ask" a vowel
	distinct both from the one in "cat" and the one in "father",
	then [a] is what it is.
[C] = [<c cedilla>] as in German (Hochdeutsch) "ich" /IC/
[D] = [<edh>] as in "this" /DIs/
[E] = [<epsilon>] as in:
	"end"		/End/		/End/
	"get"		/gEt/		/gEt/
	"Mary"		/'mE@rI/	/'mE@ri/
	"merry"		/'mErI/		/'mEri/
	Some U.S. speakers do not distinguish between "Mary",
	"merry", and "marry".
[e] as in:
	"eight" 	/eIt/		/eIt/
	"chaos"		/'keA.s/	/'keAs/
[g] as in "get" /gEt/
[I] = [<iota>] as in "it" /It/
[I.] = [<small capital y>] as in German "Gl"uck" /glI.k/.
	Round your lips for [U] and try to say [I].
[i] as in "eat" /i:t/
[j] as in "yes" /jEs/
[N] = [<eng>] as in "hang" /h&N/
[O] = [<open o>] as in:
	"all" 		/O:l/		/O:l/
	"caught"	/kO:t/		/kO:t/
	"court"		/kO:t/		/kOrt/
	"oil"		/OIl/		/OIl/
	The [O] sound requires rounded lips, but lips making a
	a bigger circle than for [o].  If you do not use the
	same vowel sound in "caught" as in "court", then you are
	one of the North American speakers who use [O] only
	before [r]:  you do not round your lips for "all" and
	"caught", and you should use some other symbol, such as
	[A] or [a], to transcribe the vowel.
[o] as in U.S.:
	"no"				/noU/
	"old"				/oUld/
	"omit"				/oU'mIt/
	The pure sound is heard in French "beau" /bo/.  British
	Received Pronunciation does not use this sound,
	substituting the diphthong /@U/ (/n@U/, /@Uld/, /@U'mIt/).
	If you are one of the few speakers who distinguish such
	pairs as "aural" and "oral", "for" and "four", "for" and
	"fore", "horse" and "hoarse", "or" and "oar", "or" and
	"ore", then you use [O] for the first and [o] for the
	second word in each pair; otherwise, you use [O] for both.
[R] = [<right-hook schwa>], equivalent to /@r/, /r-/, or even /V"r/
[S] = [<esh>] as in "ship" /SIp/
[T] = [<theta>] as in "thin" /TIn/
[t!] = [<turned t>] as in "tsk-tsk" or "tut-tut" /t! t!/
[U] = [<upsilon>] as in "pull" /pUl/
[u] as in "ooze" /u:z/
[V] = [<turned v>] as in British RP:
	"hurry"		/'hVrI/
	"shun"		/SVn/
	"up"		/Vp/
	U.S. speakers tend not to use [V] in words (such as "hurry")
	where the following sound is [r]:  they would say /'h@ri/.
	And some U.S. speakers, especially in the eastern U.S.,
	substitute [@] for [V] in all contexts.  If you do not
	distinguish "mention" /'mEn S@n/ from "men shun" /'mEn SVn/,
	then you should use [@] and not [V] to transcribe your
	speech.
[V"] = [<reversed epsilon>] as in:
	"fern"		/fV":n/		/fV"rn/
	"hurl"		/hV":l/		/hV"rl/
	Many U.S. speakers substitute [@] for [V"], so they would
	say /f@rn/, /h@rl/.  Many other U.S. speakers pronounce "fern"
	with no vowel at all:  /fr:n/, /hr:l/.  If you are one of the
	few speakers who distinguish such pairs as "pearl" and "purl"
	(using a lower, more retracted vowel in "purl"), then you can
	transcribe "pearl" /p@rl/ and "purl" /pV"rl/.
[W] = [<o-e ligature>] as in French "heure" /Wr/, German "K"opfe"
	/'kWpf@/.  Round your lips for [O] and try to say [E].
[x] as in Scots "loch" /lA.x/, German "Bach" /bax/
[Y] = [<slashed o>] as in French "peu" /pY/, German "sch"on" /SYn/,
	Scots "guidwillie" /gYd'wIli/.  Round your lips for [o] and
	try to say [e].
[y] as in French "lune" /lyn/, German "m"ude" /'myd@/.  Round your
	lips for [u] and try to say [i].
[Z] = [<yogh>] as in "beige" /beIZ/
[&] = [<ash>] as in:
	"ash" 		/&S/		/&S/
	"cat"		/k&t/		/k&t/
	"marry"		/'m&rI/		/'m&ri/
[@] = [<schwa>] as in "lemon" /'lEm@n/
[?] = [<glottal>] as in "uh-oh" /V?oU/
[*] = [<fish-hook r>], a short tap of the tongue use by some U.S.
	speakers in "pedal", "petal", and by Scots speakers in
	"pearl":  all /pE*@l/.  If you are a U.S. speaker but
	distinguish "pedal" from "petal", then you do not use this
	sound.
- previous consonant syllabic as in "bundle" /'bVnd@l/ or /'bVndl-/,
	"button" /bVt@n/ or /bVtn-/
~ previous sound nasalized
: previous sound lengthened
; previous sound palatalized
<h> previous sound aspirated
' following syllable has primary stress
, following syllable has secondary stress

Here is the scheme compared with the transcriptions in 4 U.S.
dictionaries. (Most British dictionaries now use IPA for their
transcriptions.)

       Merriam-Webster    American Heritage Random House     Webster's New World
  
[A]    a umlaut           a umlaut          a umlaut          a umlaut
[A.]   (merged with [A])  o breve           o                 (merged with [A])
[a]    a overdot          (merged with [A]) A                 a overdot
/aI/   i macron           i macron          i macron          i macron
/aU/   a u overdot        ou                ou                ou
[C]    (merged with [x])  (merged with [x]) (merged with [x]) H
[D]    th underlined      th in italics     th slashed        th in italics
/dZ/   j                  j                 j                 j
[E]    e                  e breve           e                 e
/E@/   e schwa            a circumflex      a circumflex      (merged with [e])
/eI/   a macron           a macron          a macron          a macron
[g]    g                  g                 g                 g
[I]    i                  i breve           i                 i
[I.]   ue ligature        (merged with [y]) (merged with [y]) (merged with [y])
[i]    e macron           e macron          e macron          e macron
[j]    y                  y                 y                 y
[N]    <eng>              ng                ng                <eng>
[O]    o overdot          o circumflex      o circumflex      o circumflex
/OI/   o overdot i        oi                oi                oi ligature
/oU/   o macron           o macron          o macron          o macron
[S]    sh                 sh                sh                sh ligature
[T]    th                 th                th                th ligature
/tS/   ch                 ch                ch                ch ligature
[U]    u overdot          oo breve          oo breve          oo
[u]    u umlaut           oo macron         oo macron         oo macron
[V]    (merged with [@])  u breve           u                 u
[V"]   (merged with [@])  u circumflex      u circumflex      u circumflex
[W]    oe ligature        oe ligature       OE ligature       o umlaut
[x]    k underlined       KH                KH                kh ligature
[Y]    oe ligature macron (merged with [W]) (merged with [W]) (merged with [W])
[y]    ue ligature macron u umlaut          Y                 u umlaut
[Z]    zh                 zh                zh                zh ligature
[&]    a                  a breve           a                 a
[@]    schwa              schwa             schwa             schwa
-      superscript schwa  syllabicity mark  unmarked          '

Auditory files demonstrating speech sounds can be obtained by
anonymous ftp from ftp.cs.cmu.edu (or on the World Wide Web at
<http://www.cs.cmu.edu/Web/Groups/AI/html/repository.html>).
Look in "/user/ai/areas/nlp/corpora/pron" and
"/user/ai/areas/speech/database/britpron".

rhotic vs non-rhotic, intrusive "r"

A rhotic speaker is one who pronounces as a consonant postvocalic
"r", i.e. the "r" after a vowel in words like "world" /wV"rld/. A
nonrhotic speaker either does not pronounce the "r" at all /wV"ld/
or pronounces it as a schwa /wV"@ld/. British Received
Pronunciation (RP) and many other dialects of English are nonrhotic.

Many nonrhotic speakers (including RP speakers, but excluding
most nonrhotic speakers in the southern U.S.) use a "linking r":
they don't pronounce "r" in "for" by itself /fO:/, but they do
pronounce the first "r" in "for ever" /fO: 'rEv@/. Linking "r"
differs from French liaison in that the former happens in any
phonetically appropriate context, whereas the latter also needs
the right syntactic context.

A further development of "linking r" is "intrusive r".
Intrusive-r speakers, because the vowels in "law" (which they
pronounce the same as "lore") and "idea" (which they pronounce
to rhyme with "fear") are identical for them to vowels spelled
with "r", intrude an r in such phrases as "law [r]and order" and
"The idea [r]of it!" They do NOT intrude an [r] after vowels that
are never spelled with an "r". Some people blanch at intrusive r,
but most RP speakers now use it.

 

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