Braille and Phonetics
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I have received many interesting responses to my enquiry regarding Braille
codes for phonetic transcription. I would like to thank all who responded,
and to summarise the outcomes below:
Many thanks to Glenn Alessi, English Language lecturer and researcher at
the University Di Modena e Reggio, Emilia, Italy. He teaches phonetics to a
blind student, and has requested my help and advice. I have sent him
Braille, print and audio materials, along with advice on how to conduct the
Many thanks to Mary Erbaugh from the University of Oregon. She suggested
that I also post my enquiry at the National Federation of the Blind. This
was an excellent suggestion, but unfortunately, I have received no response.
Many thanks to Eva Monros from the Universitat de Barcelona. As a
linguistics student, she devised her own computer-based IPA and diacritics,
using combinations of characters available on the qwerty keyboard, and
supplied her tutors with a legend. She has kindly sent me a copy of her
system. She also forwarded a request from Adelaide Silva from the Federal
University of Parana, Brazil, which was posted on Linguist List in 2003.
Adelaide Silva also mentioned keyboard-based methods of transcription,
emphasising the lack of Braille symbols available. I have attempted to
contact her, but have received no response.
Many thanks to Dr. Wynne Roberts who has referred me to Jack Maartman. Jack
Maartman is the Canadian linguistics representative for the unified Braille
code. This code is still in its theoretical stages, but its ultimate aim is
to create universal codes for any symbol which could potentially require
Many thanks to Prof. Robert Hoberman from Stony Brook University. He has
informed me of Haim Blanc, a blind linguistics professor for whom he worked
in the 70s. Haim Blanc handled phonetics materials using strategically
filed index cards.
I would also like to thank the subscriber who forwarded my enquiry to R.
Kalyana Krishnen, although I have not determined who they are. R. Krishnen
is a professor of computer sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology,
Madrass. She is involved in developing a computer-based system, which
enables the user to produce specialist symbols by typing in short-hand
descriptors. The symbols can also be transcribed into Braille. A limited
number of IPA symbols has yet been codified.
All respondents have shown a keen interest in my research, and have asked
that I keep them updated. My next plan is to review the scant available
literature regarding the evolution of the Braille IPA, and to revise and
expand the system, so that it can be used in the clinical context.
Certainly, a computer-based system will also be necessary in the future, in
order for blind phoneticians to communicate their analyses with sighted
peers. Ultimately, the Braille systems need to be made as convertible as
standard Braille and orthographic text. However, achievement of this goal
requires substantial further research. I hope that by starting with a
Braille code, a way will be paved which enables blind students to play a
role in speech therapy/pathology research which is not currently available
Many thanks to everyone for their time and effort.
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