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Subject: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions
Question: For languages with no writing system or no very standardized
writing system, are there any tools that support consistency-
checking of manually created transcriptions? For example, I
was reading a text in a grammar for an endangered language,
and the writer had glossed and translated both uwE and iwE as
''2SG/you''; and I wasn't sure if that was intentional or a typo
(iwE was much more frequent in the text than uwE).

If not, how do linguists working with languages without
standardized orthographies achieve transcription consistency,
for approximately phonemic transcriptions?


Reply: Writing systems develop out of spoken languages to represent speech sounds, ideally. In this sense, orthographies are a kind of transcription, though often inaccurate, as you point out.

The International Phonetic Association (IPA) has created a standard phonetic alphabet, the International Phonetic Alphabet (also IPA), in order to represent speech sounds as accurately as possible. Each IPA symbol is meant to correspond one-to-one with a specific speech sound, and vice versa. Their website:
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Grammars of spoken languages, as I presume the language you mention is, include the grammar of their sounds – their phonology – in standard phonetic transcription. This is so we all know what we are talking about, just like we know what a construct like “2SG/you” means.

For consistency across phonetic transcriptions, have a look at a previous Ask-a-Linguist question, here:
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Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
Date: 29-Aug-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions    Nancy J. Frishberg     (29-Aug-2012)
  2. Re: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions    James L Fidelholtz     (29-Aug-2012)
  3. Re: Consistency-checking manual transcriptions    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (29-Aug-2012)

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