LINGUIST List 6.185

Fri 10 Feb 1995

Disc: IPA

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  1. Gerard Gautier, Re: 6.166 IPA
  3. wachal robert s, hachek
  4. Joseph P Stemberger, Re: 6.137 IPA

Message 1: Re: 6.166 IPA

Date: Thu, 9 Feb 1995 09:26:19 +Re: 6.166 IPA
From: Gerard Gautier <>
Subject: Re: 6.166 IPA

On Tue, 7 Feb 1995, Hugh Buckingham ( wrote :

) [...] Also, if "hacek" means "little hook" as defined in
) Pullum and Ladusaw (p. 29), isn't it better related to the cedilla, which
) to me looks more like a little hook than the wedge??? Diacritic mania!
) Hugh Buckingham
 I read (probably in a book concerning history of french language)
that the word "cedilla" (well, its french equivalent "ce'dille") is
derived from the spanish "zedilla", meaning a little letter "z"...
So the hook shape would have come later from cursivation (?). (to my
knowledge, spanish does not make any use of cedilla, so why... ? Could
someone elaborate on this ?)

 Gerard Gautier

WEN-TZAO School | \| // Gerard Gautier
 of Foreign Languages | /\ \| .. \| \
 | | __) | _/\_> o___>
KAOHSIUNG - TAIWAN _/ _/.. _/ (_S .. _/
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Message 2: IPA

Date: Wed, 8 Feb 1995 14:04:28 -IPA
Subject: IPA

Hugh Buckingham asked about "wedge" vs. "hacek" for the diacritic typically
used in American phonetic transcription to distinguish representations of
orthographic (s) and <sh>. I've heard both terms used, but I think wedge is
more often used to refer to the inverted "v" used to transcribe the vowel in
_bud_. I didn't save the beginning of this discussion, so I might be
recycling here, but doesn't the *word* _hacek_ come from Czech? Certainly the
diacritic is used in Czech. I suspect, however, that the origin of the symbol
is not Czech. I've seen the same diacritic with the same meaning used in 12th
century Hebrew manuscripts originating in France. In one manuscript listing
orthographically ambiguous Hebrew words and disambiguating them by use of Old
French glosses, the hacek is consistently used on Hebrew (q) (qof) to
represent palatalized reflexes of *k, on Hebrew (n) to represent OF <gn>, and
(I believe) on Hebrew (sh) (which, unmodified, transcribes OF /s/) to
represent deaffricated palatalized *k. I believe there is some discussion of
the light this manuscript tradition sheds on French historical phonology in
Mildred Pope's book on Old (north?) French, but I'm not familiar with any
discussions of the use of diacritics in this tradition.

Alice Faber
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Message 3: hachek

Date: Wed, 8 Feb 1995 13:05:21 -hachek
From: wachal robert s <>
Subject: hachek

Content-Length: 263

Hachek is the Czech name for the symbol which I've always assumed was
introduced by Prague School linguists. It's popularity, I would guess is
due to the typewriter, it being easier to add diacritics than to produce
long esses or long-tailed zees.
Bob Wachal
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Message 4: Re: 6.137 IPA

Date: Tue, 7 Feb 1995 14:48:06 -Re: 6.137 IPA
From: Joseph P Stemberger <>
Subject: Re: 6.137 IPA

I would like to see the field get itself together and end the current
disagreements and chaos in terms of transcription systems. It would be
nice when teaching phonetics and phonology to be able to tell students
that there is a single phonetic alphabet that everyone agrees on, and to
just teach that. (for use with Roman alphabets, of course.)

Along similar lines, Peter Ladefoged made the following comment:

)> But why not join the IPA and vote with me to change
)> it, instead of just grousing on the outside? It's votes that count in a
)> democracy.

I'm all for democracy, but it's not clear that the model for the
International Phonetics Association is going to give us that. Within the
organization, yes, it is democratic. And anyone can join. But the IPA
makes decisions that are meant to be binding on non-members, and is not
particularly trying to get all interested parties involved in decisions.
Any decisions that the IPA is likely to make in the forseeable future
will NOT involve input from the majority of linguists in North America
who might care about those decisions.

Now, we could just say that that should not be our concern, since anyone
who wants to participate can.

Well, there are always LOTS of excuses for setting up governance to
exclude people from decisions, and people often call the result
democratic. Here in Minnesota (as in many Midwestern states in the US),
we have traditionally used party caucuses instead of primary elections.
Caucuses seem like a great democratic institution: anyone who is
interested can come, discuss, vote, and have far more say than you get by
putting a few marks on a paper ballot. But 50% of voters vote in a
primary, and only 7% come to caucuses. Caucuses tend to get taken over by
extremists who don't reflect general opinions. Caucuses LOOK democratic,
but are fundamentally exclusionary. Fortunately, my state is in the
process of switching to primaries (slowly).

To make a choice of phonetic alphabet truly democratic, you want a
process that goes out of its way to involve as many people as possible,
even those that will not bother to join a new organization to do so (and
who will certainly not attend a conference to make decisions about it).

Probably the best way to do so would be to use a number of organizations
whose members would feel that they want to have a say in any decisions.
in North America, presumably this would be the Linguistic Society of
America, the Canadian Linguistics Association, and the Summer Institute
of Linguistics. (Any others?) It would be a simple enough matter to send
out a ballot to all members, possibly along with some other mailing, such
as membership renewal forms.

That won't catch everyone, but would be a start.

In other parts of the world, whatever organizations would reach as many
people as possible should be used there as well.

If there are regional disagreements, those should probably be recognized
and worked out. Particular regions that are heavily populated could
dominate other areas too easily, if you just count the votes straight.
(Democracy has all too often been used to exclude minorities from any
part in government. We need to be sure that that doesn't happen here.)

A process is only democratic if lots of people participate. If not, you
run the risk of having people view the results as invalid. A group has to
have a mandate in order to make binding decisions. Perhaps the IPA has a
mandate in Europe, and had it at the turn of the century. But it has
never had such a mandate in North America, and North Americans have not,
as a group, felt bound by the IPA's decisions. Particular North Americans
have joined, & particular non-members have followed, and even some
organizations (like ASHA) have adopted the IPA. But as a whole, North
Americans have not followed, nor have North American journals or book
publishers adopted the IPA. And i think that it is doubtful that any
votes that only IPA members take part in are likely to be considered

But why don't we try to get some vote that is more general? Is there some
reason that the LSA has never made a recommendation on phonetic
transcription systems? Is there some reason we couldn't get a cooperative
venture from various regional organizations (U.S., Canada, Great Britain,
etc.) and specialized organizations (IPA, SIL) and work out a
transcription system that we'd all be willing to live with?

Any feeling out there that this would be worth a try over the next few

Or would it be impossible to get everyone to agree on something?

I know that some IPA members will feel that this is not the best idea,
since the IPA was set up with this goal in mind. But it's clear that the
IPA has failed to become the generally-accepted authority organization
that it set out to be.

It would be wonderful to end the chaos of multiple standards. Why don't
we work out some scheme to bring that about?

---Joe Stemberger
 University of Minnesota
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