LINGUIST List 6.265

Tue 21 Feb 1995

Disc: IPA

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Terry Lynn Irons, Re: 6.241 IPA
  2. Bertinetto, IPA

Message 1: Re: 6.241 IPA

Date: Sat, 18 Feb 95 20:06:39 ESRe: 6.241 IPA
From: Terry Lynn Irons <>
Subject: Re: 6.241 IPA

Much of this recent argument about the IPA seems to me to be moot,
for the real question is, how accurate is the graphic representation
that we are relating to some (spoken) utterance? Of late, I have been
working with some materials in the archives of the Linguistic Atlas of
the North Central States, much of which represents the work of the late
Raven McDavid. Raven used the elongated S, instead of the s wedge.
But that is really irrelevant. We know that each symbol approximates
the same sound, the palatal fricative, which has little range of
allophonic variation.

The larger question becomes, what is the value of graphic phonetic
(Phonemic representation is a different issue) representation, given
that each participant-observer has a different phonemic/phonetic
system? Can we all learn the subtle diacritics and agree on
cardinal sounds? What vowel sounds did Raven see as basic?
George Dorrill and other living students of his know, but what about the
rest of us who approach his written records?

The answer may be that the IPA has little real value and that we all
must learn to use equipment to analyze language in acoustic terms.

Terry Lynn Irons
Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164
Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351
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Message 2: IPA

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 16:51:07 IPA
From: Bertinetto <>
Subject: IPA

I also have the feeling that the present debate on IPA is getting a bit too
far. I do not think that all choices proposed by IPA are the best possible
ones, but I always thought the effort of standardization is worth some
little pain.
I believe Peter Ladefoged's recommendation to direct individual suggestions
to the IPA board, possibly by joining the organization, is the most
reasonable way-out.
In this context, I think we all feel the need to agree on a standard to be
used in email-like systems. This is of course a big challenge, since the
number of characters at our disposal on this key-board is not very large.
But perhaps, an effort in this direction might suggest some simplifications
that, in the end, will turn out to be useful also for the main corpus of
Why doesn't the IPA take on this task? Maybe, in order to have a larger
debate, the first proposals could be discussed on the network, before being
suggested as a standard.

Pier Marco Bertinetto

ps: by the way, the hachek symbol belongs to the phonetic alphabet
traditionally used by Italian dialectologists, and is still used by those
of us who do not adhere to the IPA norm. I therefore think it is incorrect
to say that these symbols were avoided by IPA because of Western-European
cultural imperialism, whatever was the reason for that choice. Unless of
course Italy belongs to Eastern-Europe. That is also a possibility, I would
not mind.
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