Help talk:IPA/English

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

/i, u/[edit]

@Mr KEBAB: I'm surprised you made those edits boldly. I have a few questions:

Can the archiphonemes /i, u/ represent [j, w] only before /ə/? So /ˈpwɑːti/ can only mean /ˈpwɑːt/ or /ˈpwɑːtɪ/, but not /ˈpwɑːtj/? I'd like to know where you got the idea that the archiphonemes represent something different when preceding /ə/.

Is using /u/ preconsonantally something supported by multiple scholars? For Bugatti, CEPD has /ʊ/ and RDPCE has /ᵿ/ in RP and /ʊ/ in GA. I have a feeling we should limit the use of /u/ to prevocalic environments for the sake of simplicity. Nardog (talk) 12:55, 21 December 2017 (UTC)

@Nardog: I considered them pretty much harmless, so I just went ahead and made them. If you check LPD, you'll see that listing /iə, uə/ is consistent with listing /ər, əl, ən, əm/, with which nobody has a problem.
This compression to [j, w] doesn't happen in other environments. You're right in saying that poitier is transcribed with both /i/ and /j/. The latter is a US-only variant, and it's not even listed in RDPCE, only in LPD and CEPD.
I've removed Bugatti from the guide.
I think we should treat /i, u/ as proper phonemes that can only occur in unstressed syllables, as Wells does (at least he says that it's a possible analysis). Then we'd say that /ˈpwɑːtieɪ/ represents only [ˈpwɑːti(ː).eɪ] or [ˈpwɑːtɪ.eɪ], whereas /ˌkælɪˈfɔːrniə/ can represent [-iː.ə], [-ɪ.ə] or [-jə]. This makes the IPA less confusing. Mr KEBAB (talk) 13:22, 21 December 2017 (UTC)
@Mr KEBAB: Do you have a quote? I only have access to the electronic version of LPD3 and am not sure which part you're referring to.
I would like to see evidence that 1) /i, u/ can represent [j, w] (which I empirically know is true, but I haven't been able to find a reputable source that explicitly confirms it); 2) /i, u/ can represent [j, w] only before /ə/; and 3) this is supported and practiced by multiple scholars. Otherwise I don't think I would be able to approve of your edits.
/i, u/ as proper phonemes that can only occur in unstressed syllables Would that mean we would have six high vowels that can occur in unstressed syllables in total? And how would an editor be supposed to know which one to use when they only have access to a recording or a source that doesn't adopt such a convention? Nardog (talk) 14:37, 21 December 2017 (UTC)
@Nardog: Try Longman Pronunciation Guide -> Pronunciation Notes -> Compression. See also [1], [2] and [3].
We'd have to check recent books on English phonetics because, as you know, /i, u/ are relatively new symbols in English phonetics/phonology. I'll think of something.
You're misunderstanding me. I'm talking only about this guide. We're already using /i, u/ in our transcriptions. Mr KEBAB (talk) 14:53, 21 December 2017 (UTC)
@Mr KEBAB: Thanks. I'll see what I can find too.
As far as LPD goes, though, it seems the compression to a semivowel is indicated by the linking symbol ‿, not by the letters /i, u/ themselves. I'm still not convinced, including for #1.
Oh, so do you agree that /u/ need not be used for closed syllables? Nardog (talk) 15:09, 21 December 2017 (UTC)
@Nardog: About half a year ago you said that using ⟨⟩ is an overkill. Did you change your mind? If so, I'm for transcribing California /ˌkælɪˈfɔːrni‿ə/ (well, not exactly this word, since it has a straightforward pronunciation, but you know what I mean). It's a good solution and it's non-OR.
You know that I usually side with LPD when there are discrepancies between sources. But that's just me. It's probably wise not to use /u/ before consonants. Maybe we shouldn't use /i/ in that position too? The usual pronunciation of the first syllable of because is [bɪ] or [bə], but usually not [bi(ː)]. Transcribing because as /bi-/ is something I do disagree with LPD on. Mr KEBAB (talk) 15:23, 21 December 2017 (UTC)
@Mr KEBAB: I stand by that. But I can also get behind the idea that we choose to use /iə, uə/ as meaning varisyllabic, even if that was not a common practice in literature, so we can shorten notations like /ˌkælɪˈfɔːrniə, -njə/.
I think it's best to keep the use of /i, u/ before consonants to morpheme-final positions, e.g. re-, anti-. Otherwise we would invite a great deal of inconsistency. Nardog (talk) 15:38, 21 December 2017 (UTC)

@Maczkopeti: While I genuinely appreciate all the corrections you've made, please don't say that there's a consensus regarding the use of /iə, uə/. The discussion is ongoing. Mr KEBAB (talk) 15:06, 25 December 2017 (UTC)

A potentially relevant study: Jaggers, Z. S., 2018, "Evidence and characterization of a glide-vowel distinction in American English". Nardog (talk) 20:27, 11 April 2018 (UTC)

Stressed /iə/[edit]

Regarding Mr KEBAB's edit, there is a variation in the pronunciation of ⟨ea⟩ in words like "idea", "diarrh(o)ea", "theater"/"theatre" and the aforementioned "Korea". In OED, these are noted as /ɪə/ for UK and /iːə/ for US. It seems that for UK there's a reduction to a non-rhotic /ɪər/, while some US dialects also seem to reduce the /iː/ in a similar manner to /i/. In theory, there could be a similar stressed variant of /uə/ too, but I've yet to find an example for that.
--maczkopeti (talk) 13:10, 7 March 2018 (UTC)

/i/ (the happY vowel) is just a non-phonemic notation of the high front vowel found in unstressed and morpheme-final or prevocalic positions, traditionally identified as belonging to the KIT phoneme (see [4][5]). So there could be no such thing as a "stressed /i/" as far as our diaphonemic system goes.
In most US dialects there is no distinction between /iː/ and /i/ (i.e. no appreciable difference in segmental quality, although some phonologists might still identify the happY vowel as belonging to the KIT phoneme). It is true that in RP the stressed vowels in words like idea, Korea, theatre, real may be realized as the same as NEAR, but they obviously cannot in GA. And in accents like RP where this can happen, the second segment in any diphthong before /ə/ can also be elided with the schwa losing its syllabicity (e.g. [faə̯] fire), suggesting [ɪə] in the aforementioned words is the result of this type of diphthongization ("smoothing") from /iːə/ rather than originally having the NEAR vowel (Wells 1982:240 says This can be interpreted as evidence in favour of analysing FLEECE and GOOSE as underlyingly diphthongal, /ɪi, ʊu/; Smoothing then has its usual effect of producing a monophthong with the phonetic quality of the starting-point of the underlying diphthong). So in our diaphonemic system they are best transcribed as /iːə/ (meanwhile, this does constitute yet another reason not to transcribe them as /iː.ə/, with a syllable break). Nardog (talk) 15:26, 7 March 2018 (UTC)
I agree with Nardog. /iːə/ is the best choice for this. Can we expect non-rhotic speakers to read this correctly without guidance? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 17:04, 7 March 2018 (UTC)

Confused Christian t (talk) 15:10, 2 April 2018 (UTC)

@Christian t: About what? Mr KEBAB (talk) 15:16, 2 April 2018 (UTC)

Stressed monosyllables[edit]

Per the recent edits, particularly this addition, I'm not sure if we have a consensus on that. It seems from this conversation back in December, people seemed to accept that this is a stylistic choice. I'm fine either way, but I don't want cycle of reversions every three to six months on the matter. Anyone care to make their case? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 18:09, 26 March 2018 (UTC)

I'm also confused by Kwami's edits. As far as I know, no dictionary which uses IPA puts stress in monosyllabic words, so to do so on Wikipedia is WP:UNDUE ("we have done for decades" is not a valid reason—nor true, it's idiosyncratic at best). No stress in a monosyllable does not mean unstressed, it just means neither stressed nor unstressed, as far as lexical stress is concerned, because in order for a syllable to be stressed there needs to be another syllable that is unstressed or less stressed. And we do, in the vast majority of the cases, record lexical stress, not stress in running speech—in running speech lexically stressed syllables are unstressed and lexically unstressed syllables are stressed all the time. There's no reason for it to be there. Nardog (talk) 18:39, 26 March 2018 (UTC)
We have in this recent thread an example of where the previous determination may have left too little guidance. If we decide that it's a stylistic issue, we also don't want editors going back and forth over it, even if they aren't intentionally warring. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 03:57, 27 March 2018 (UTC)
Thanks Aeusoes1! I must say I am slightly confused.
It was me who had revised Kwamikagami's edit here, for the same reason that Maczkopeti gives here, based on the convention followed by Wiktionary. If it is true that "no dictionary which uses IPA puts stress in monosyllabic words" then I wonder why Wikipedia does it differently? So far I haven't seen any rationale for why the unusual convention was adopted in the first place (actually I am not convinced yet that it actually has been the convention at all, regardless of what Kwami says).
Citing Mr KEBAB: "Editors' preference. Remove the stress marks if you want, both variants are correct." (from here). Obviously there is no consensus that this is true. --Renerpho (talk) 13:42, 28 March 2018 (UTC)
@Renerpho: I stand by that. As long as you're transcribing words in isolation rather than phrases, both variants are correct as there's only one way to realize stress in a monosyllabic word (more accurately: a monosyllabic phrase, because stress in words said in isolation is both simple word stress and phrasal stress). When you're transcribing phrases, you must place stress marks in a correct manner, otherwise your transcription is incomplete. Mr KEBAB (talk) 14:23, 28 March 2018 (UTC)
@Mr KEBAB: Right now, the article says "Some dictionaries use a stress mark to distinguish two-syllable from one-syllable words, but on Wikipedia we mark all stressed syllables." Should that be removed then? --Renerpho (talk) 15:04, 28 March 2018 (UTC)
@Renerpho: I have no strong preference. I'd rather not transcribe stress in isolated monosyllables, but it's not a very big deal to me. Mr KEBAB (talk) 15:13, 28 March 2018 (UTC)

If you pronounce a lexically unstressed monosyllable in isolation, it will take the prosodic stress of the phrase. But that doesn't mean there's no lexical distinction. There is a phonemic lexical distinction of stress in English monosyllables, and to transcribe a phonemically stressed word without stress in a phonemic transcription is just as wrong as transcribing it without vowels. True, I doubt there are many cases where the IPA trascription in the lead is going to be for an unstressed monosyllable, since nearly every WP entry is for a noun, but leaving out the stress is still technically incorrect (and would be critical in discussing the variable stress of pronouns or auxiliary verbs, for example). And when we transcribe a phrase, the distinction is certainly relevant (e.g. /ˈprɪns əv ˈwlz/).

BTW, I have used a bot to add stress to all IPA-en transcriptions in WP that didn't have it, unless the words were truly unstressed. And that was accepted -- I did it more than once. So we certainly had consensus at the time.

My main problem with giving false information for our convenience, under the assumption that the reader will understand it's false, is that in general they won't. The last time I was in a discussion about this, there were users who argued that such words actually were unstressed because dictionaries didn't mark stress for them. If many of us don't understand the convention, how can we expect our readers to? And the convenience of omitting phonemic stress is minimal, so why do it? — kwami (talk) 19:00, 28 March 2018 (UTC)

@Kwamikagami: Oh, that's what you mean. I suppose you have a point there. I guess it is one of the best examples, when it's /ˈɪt/ the vowel is relatively front [ɪ] and when it's /ɪt/ the vowel is prone to being centralized to [ɪ̈] or it even merges with [ə]. Mr KEBAB (talk) 06:24, 30 March 2018 (UTC)
Yes, and since those vowels are now transcribed the same, we rely on the stress mark to distinguish them (though of course there are cases where there is a full unstressed /ɪ/ -- we no longer have any way to indicate that). — kwami (talk) 06:46, 30 March 2018 (UTC)
@Kwamikagami: TBH I'm not aware of a single dictionary that would get reduced /ɪ, ʊ/ right, so removing them was pretty much the only option we had. Mr KEBAB (talk) 12:43, 31 March 2018 (UTC)
Even Longman? — kwami (talk) 17:45, 31 March 2018 (UTC)

Word-final /ʌ/[edit]

Can Lao-Tzu really be pronounced /ˈlaʊˈdzʌ/ or is that just another invention of certain dictionaries? I strongly suspect it's the latter. Mr KEBAB (talk) 17:57, 28 March 2018 (UTC)

It could be the closest theoretical English approximation of the Chinese, rather than an actual English pronunciation. You certainly see things like that a lot. But, while marginal, you do occasionally see stressed 'short' vowels in words like pho and meh. (Thus the joke in the restaurant name "Pho King Delicious".) So it wouldn't be unheard of. — kwami (talk) 19:06, 28 March 2018 (UTC)
There is no /ʌ/ in Standard Chinese phonology. Pronunciation would be something like /t͡sɨ/. Not sure if I'd call /dzʌ/ a close approximation. --Renerpho (talk) 21:56, 28 March 2018 (UTC)
"Lao-dzer" in a non-rhotic accent would be closer, or maybe a syllabic /z/, but otherwise /ʌ/ is the closest I can come up with. — kwami (talk) 06:51, 30 March 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for the responses. IMO /ʌ/ isn't very close to the original Chinese sound. In comparison with it, it's very open and lacks the alveolar friction. /uː/ is a better approximation. Mr KEBAB (talk) 12:42, 31 March 2018 (UTC)
That may be true, but aren't we going with what is actually cited in dictionaries or used by English speakers? Wolfdog (talk) 19:17, 2 April 2018 (UTC)
@Wolfdog: I just responded to Kwami, nothing more. I'm not challenging any dictionary. Mr KEBAB (talk) 19:30, 2 April 2018 (UTC)
Right. I agree that it seems to be strangely derived. Wolfdog (talk) 19:33, 2 April 2018 (UTC)

Remove /əl, əm, ən/[edit]

I think we should replace them with ordinary ə|l, ə|m and ə|n for a few reasons:

  • The correct phonemic analysis is /əl, əm, ən/ as in most (all?) other Germanic languages that have syllabic sonorants. I think hardly anyone postulates separate /l̩, m̩, n̩/ phonemes, and our əl, əm, ən look the same as ə|l, ə|m, ə|n anyway. There's no way to distinguish them unless you use the mouseover feature. How many users/readers of Wikipedia do that? Probably not that many. This renders this distinction completely irrelevant to those who don't use the mouseover feature.
  • Our Help:Pronunciation respelling key uses əl, əm, ən for both types of allophones (or however you want to call them). This would bring this guide and our PRK even closer.
  • For speakers that vocalize their /l/'s /əl/ in treacle or bubble is the same as /l/ in mail or oil. Cockneys would pronounce these [ˈtɹ̥ekʊ, ˈbɐbʊ, ˈmæɪ̯ʊ ~ ˈmæʊ̯, ˈoɪ̯ʊ] (forgive me if any of these particular words isn't used by cockneys, I don't know their rhyming slang very well).
  • For many speakers of Estuary English the distinction between [əm, ən] and [m̩, n̩] (and [əl] and [l̩], as pointed out above - EE is watered down Cockney after all) is no longer relevant. Older speakers (of RP in particular) perceive the presence of a phonetic schwa in words such as button as sounding childish, but for younger speakers it sounds normal (Gimson (2014:171)).
  • Dialects vary somewhat as to where exactly [n̩] can be used. RP and GA don't allow it in London, but the Cardiff dialect does (Collins & Mees (1990:90), Wells (2008)).

Even if we do remove əl, əm and ən from the IPAc-en template, we should still mention syllabic [l̩, m̩, n̩] in this guide as they are rather important and auditorily distinct allophones.


Thoughts? Mr KEBAB (talk) 15:44, 11 April 2018 (UTC)

I disagree. /əl, əm, ən/ work the same way as /ər/ in that it treats what is arguably a biphonemic cluster as one unit since the pronunciation is different. If we separate the sound into two different pieces (which is precisely what ə|l, ə|m does), I think we're more prone to mislead readers into unnatural pronunciations. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 16:34, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
@Aeusoes1: It kind of depends on the dialect and phonetic environment, as I've pointed out above. What I wrote applies to various degrees to Estuary English, modern RP, New Zealand English and some American, Australian and Scottish English, so millions of speakers with more or less "standard" accents. It's pretty important in my view.
I'm not sure what you mean by your last sentence. Isn't it so that the majority of our readers simply don't use the mouseover feature? Mr KEBAB (talk) 20:58, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
I'm confused by your dismissiveness of the mouseover component. If you think the mouseover component isn't worth worrying about, why are you proposing a change? AFAIK, the only reason to worry about whether we do ə|l,or əl is the effect it has on the mouseover feature. Since we created that to be helpful, we don't want to change it to be less helpful.
I don't think what you've said regarding pronunciation contradicts what I've said. It's just that risk of misleading some readers. If one convention potentially misleads some readers and another does not, it seems like changing from the latter to the former would be poorly motivated. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 22:07, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
@Aeusoes1: Perhaps I'm trying too hard to be realistic. At the same time though, we probably can't even know how often our readers use that feature, so it's probably better (and simpler) to assume that it's used by at least a sizable minority of readers. Maybe we should just drop the topic of the mouseover feature.
I think I'll just expand the guide so that it contains more information on what I've written about in the original message. It's probably what I should do anyway, regardless of what we decide to do. Mr KEBAB (talk) 22:36, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Scrolling lists and collapsible content says at least 45% of our visitors use the mobile version of the site, and the title attributes are not accessible in most mobile browsers, so I think it's safe to assume more than a half of our readers cannot even view the mouseover even if they were aware of its existence. But this does not mean we should abandon the feature altogether—I think it should be replaced with something interactive like this (add .IPA-table { display: none; } .IPA-table:target { display: initial; } to your custom CSS to see the effect). The sample uses CSS3 and not JavaScript so it's far from perfect, but I think you can see the point and it'd be wonderful if something along the same lines but using JS were implemented, which of course would require an approval from a larger community. So let's keep the diaphonemes and tooltips for now, even though their potential may not be fully exploited at the moment. Nardog (talk) 23:42, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
I like what you've done, Kebab, except for this added section. I've read it and re-read it several times and I can't make heads or tails of how this is supposed to help anyone. Those unfamiliar with the IPA won't understand it and those familiar with the IPA would already know it. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 15:38, 12 April 2018 (UTC)
@Aeusoes1: Can we try to make it sound less technical? I still think it's useful. Mr KEBAB (talk) 15:43, 12 April 2018 (UTC)
@Mr KEBAB: Less technical is definitely a good thing. But unless I'm misunderstanding the point you're trying to convey, it seems more like academic nitpicking than something to help with understanding our transcriptions. That one phone can represent different phonemes in different contexts is something speakers don't naturally notice unless you point it out to them. So pointing out to them to ignore it is unnecessary. Is there something more that I'm missing? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 15:54, 12 April 2018 (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree with Aeusoes1 in principle, but I also agree with Mr KEBAB in that they may not be so much of help for the visitors. But dictionaries mark these consonants in quite various ways, so having them at least listed in the key helps editors identify what diaphoneme to use upon encountering a notation such as ⟨əC⟩, ⟨əC⟩, ⟨(ə)C⟩, ⟨ᵊC⟩, ⟨C̩⟩, or even just ⟨C⟩ (following a syllable break), however helpful the diaphonemes may be for the readers.
If making sure əC and ə|C are used where appropriate is too much of a burden for us, we could, alternatively, declare əC and ə|C equivalent (which would probably mean deprecating əC in IPAc-en but keeping /əl, əm, ən/ in the key). I recognize this would result in rather misleading notations, i.e. ə|C where /C̩/ is dominant, but that's more or less what we already do by əC, which isn't distinguishable from ə|C except for the most attentive users. Keeping /əl, əm, ən/ in the key also helps clarify this at least for those who bother to click on the notation. Nardog (talk) 20:19, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
What I have understood from previous discussions is that we must not mistake our sign pairings used in some of our templates to implicit any phonemic or phonetic analysis. This means that on the surface, using {{|ən|}} means exactly the same as using {{|ə|n|}} (which renders {{|ən|}} pointless, but we keep it for whatever reason). Of course, this is exactly what we find in the practice of our actual articles (as opposed to the prescriptivist POVs often found on this talk page), where some use {{|ən|}}, but others use {{|ə|n|}}. Bottom point: I vote for deprecating all our sign pairings – including the Cj pairings – except for the diphthongs. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 20:45, 11 April 2018 (UTC)
That is a proposal I disagree with. I think the reasons should be obvious to you at this point, mach; would you like me to articulate them for you anyway? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 22:07, 11 April 2018 (UTC)

/ɛər/ to /ɛːr/[edit]

For starters, I still treat the FORCE vowel /ɔər/ as a real distinction from the NORTH /ɔːr/, as it exists in my own speech. But, if it is to be the consensus that these be merged, it also occurred to me that it would be harmonious to also change the IPA transcription of the SQUARE vowel from /ɛər/ to /ɛːr/, as whatever has been happening to FORCE has also been happening to SQUARE. Again, as with /ɔər/, this is not to say that /ɛər/ as a diphthong is completely dead, but has become more rare. /ɛː/ is already standard in the Oxford English Dictionary's pronunciation guide, and it's also already /eː/ in Australian English phonology, and /ɛɹ/ in General American, all of which are monophthongs when disregarding /r/. New Zealand English phonology indicates this vowel as /eə/, but unlike in most other major dialects, it's also raising and merging with the NEAR vowel /iə/, which may also be responsible for it remaining a diphthong; NZE indicates /oː/ for THOUGHT, NORTH and FORCE alike. I don't likewise suggest changing the transcriptions of the higher centering diphthongs /ɪər/ to /ɪːr/ or /ʊər/ to /ʊːr/, as one or both of these are still more commonly pronounced as diphthongs even in some of the major dialects that monophthongize the mid-centering diphthongs, and even the OED pronunciation guide still indicates NEAR as /ɪə/ and CURE as /ʊə/ even alongside SQUARE as /ɛː/ and FORCE as /ɔː/. - Gilgamesh (talk) 20:01, 24 April 2018 (UTC)

I'm neutral to this proposal. To a certain extent, the vowels reflect RP or standard non-rhotic pronunciations and we just add r to them as a sort of diaphonemic compromise. As long as RP readers recognize this vowel or are familiar enough with it to avoid confusion, it should be fine. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 00:02, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
I support it as an increasing amount of reputable sources transcribe RP SQUARE with ⟨ɛː⟩. A similar symbol ⟨⟩ is also used in dedicated phonemic orthographies for Australian, Liverpool and South African English.
An alternative to this proposal is changing our ⟨ɛər⟩ to ⟨eər⟩ (and therefore also ⟨ɛ⟩ to ⟨e⟩). ⟨eə, e⟩ are traditional RP symbols for these phonemes (diaphonemes), and they are surely easily recognizable to non-experts. But whatever we decide on, we shouldn't forget that diaphonemes are pure abstraction and that they cover multiple dialects with very different phonetic qualities of vowels. Mr KEBAB (talk) 00:14, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
The problem with the alternative you describe is that /e/ is also used for the FACE vowel in some transcriptions of North American as well as Scottish English phonology. /eə/ is possible, but part of my point is that the various accents are moving away from this such that even OED is using /ɛː/ now. /eə/ or /ɛə/ make sense in a phonological landscape that also has contrasting /ɔə/ or /oə/. But whatever happened to the FORCE vowel has also been happening to the SQUARE vowel; /ɔə/ was changed to /ɔː/ when it was clear the FORCE vowel was merging with the NORTH vowel, but there was no similar opposition between /ɛə/ and /ɛː/ to necessitate the retranscription of /ɛə/, and yet it increasingly looks like a relic that is, in most accents, no more or less a diphthong than NORTH/FORCE. - Gilgamesh (talk) 01:00, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Yes, but on the other hand, virtually every single L2 speaker of English that can read IPA is familiar with the symbol ⟨e⟩. You don't typically see it used for anything other than DRESS in dictionaries. American dictionaries mostly don't use IPA and no major pronunciation dictionary uses ⟨e⟩ for FACE.
With that being said, I still think that ⟨ɛː⟩ is a somewhat better choice. Either of them are better than ⟨ɛə⟩ which I haven't seen used outside Wikipedia (really). Maybe I'm missing something, but virtually every source uses either ⟨⟩ or ⟨ɛː⟩. Mr KEBAB (talk) 01:20, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
You do not need to make much research to see what is or is not used outside of Wikipedia. There is an overview of a number of sources on Help:IPA/Conventions for English. It is not exhaustive, but still very illuminative:
  • ⟨ɛə⟩ is used in the OED2, Collins (as on, Macquarie, or Jones’ EPD.
  • Our exact ⟨ɛər⟩ is used by Random House (as on
  • ⟨ɛː⟩ is used by OED3 (for British English) and by the SOED; also by the idiosyncratic CUBE.
  • ⟨eə⟩ is used by Roach’s EPD, by Longman (for British English), by the OALD (for British English) and by Windsor Lewis.
  • ⟨e⟩ for the FACE lexical set is used by K&K, still the best pronouncing dictionary for American English.
It seems to me that ⟨ɛː⟩ is mainly a OED3 thing. Not even the OALD has adopted it. While the proper pronouncing dictionaries seem to prefer ⟨eə⟩ (at least for British English), ⟨ɛə⟩ is being used in various dictionaries, and even our own ⟨ɛər⟩ is not unheard of – unlike hypothetical ⟨ɛːr⟩ (with ⟨r⟩), which is not used anywhere. Considering that ⟨e⟩ is sometimes used for the FACE lexical set, I see no reason why we should change our current ⟨ɛər⟩. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 07:55, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Windsor Lewis (2003) gives a pretty good rundown on this notation as well as the sound. As it turns out, even those who pronounce SQUARE as [ɛː] do not do so consistently (or it's hard to measure at best).
I don't understand why FORCE merging with NORTH has anything to do with the monophthongization of SQUARE. The one is a merger, not a mere change in quality, and was virtually complete by the end of the first half of the 20th century (as far as RP is concerned), and the other is a change in quality, not in the overall inventory, and far from complete and highly subject to environment. The GenAm /ɛr/ is just a phonemic notation that means that GenAm has no separate SQUARE phoneme, not that it is consistently pronounced like that—in fact before a pause or consonant it sounds just like [ɛəɹ], so e.g. pair [pɛəɹ] but pairing [pɛɹɪŋ] (Kretzschmar 2004, which parallels Wells' 1982:481 description of GenAm NEAR).
In choosing a symbol to use for a sound in general phonemic representation of word pronunciations, one needs to take into consideration not just the phonetic quality and phonological status of the sound but also a whole array of other factors such as the reader's expectation (cf. WP:LEAST) and familiarity with the symbol, and the context in which it will be used. So our diaphonemic system needs to mirror as closely as possible the kinds of IPA notation used to represent pronunciation of English words that average users are expected to encounter (such as the ones used by non-American and/or EFL-oriented dictionaries), while also relying not too much on one specific author or publisher, per WP:NPOV. And as Windsor Lewis and Mach make it clear, /ɛː/ remains to be an exclusively Upton/OUP thing. (It may also be confusing to some with /ɜːr/.) While I would find /eər/ at least a better option than /ɛːr/, then we'd have to replace /ɛ/ with /e/, which is a conventional American symbol for FACE. Let's stick with /ɛər/. Nardog (talk) 11:21, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Well, I'm suggesting a harmony between FORCE and SQUARE because they certainly seem linked to me, which of course is not a reference but may help clarify my motivation for proposing this. My references are admittedly not exhaustive, but I still generally maintain the horse-hoarse distinction, as do some (but not most) other speakers. But consensus on this talk page previously decided to deprecate a separate FORCE from NORTH and use /ɔːr/ for both. This is a bit...alienating when you still speak this way, even if it is now rare. However, I thought that, if this is to be consensus, then a similar process appears to be happening to SQUARE, most clearly in Australia, South Africa, most of North America, and now OED3's notation as well. It is not to imply that /ɛːr ɔːr/ are always or necessarily pronounced as monophthongs (as /ɪər ʊər/ are not always or necessarily pronounced as diphthongs), but that the transcription reflects which articulation (monophthong vs. diphthong) appears to be more common internationally right now. The fact that NORTH and FORCE merged at all seems to be a combination of height leveling influences of the mid R-colored vowels (especially in rhotic accents) and the loss of distinction between monophthongs and centering diphthongs (especially in non-rhotic accents). As such, the trend now is that there is effectively no meaningful difference between /ɑər ɛər ɪər ɔər ʊər/ and /ɑːr ɛːr ɪːr ɔːr ʊːr/, but my proposal mainly harmonizes with OED3's notation in regards to SQUARE and FORCE. It makes sense (again, to me) because it reflects a parity of development of the two vowel sets—from earlier /eər oər/ and later /ɛər ɔər/ to /ɛːr ɔːr/ now, even if the shift may not have necessarily been perfectly simultaneous in some accents like RP. - Gilgamesh (talk) 17:55, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Just to clarify: /eə/ was probably never [eə] in RP, it's a Cockney pronunciation (well, one of them). In very conservative RP, the realization is [ɛə ~ ɛɐ ~ æɐ]. In contemporary RP, it's [ɛə ~ ɛː], so the onset is never above open-mid. It's written /eə/ instead of /ɛə/ for mere simplicity of transcription. Mr KEBAB (talk) 18:29, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Though it may be true that the transcription was mainly chosen for simplicity, I think /eə/ was more appropriate phonetically for earlier RP (as was /eɪ/), which tended to pronounce the first point in the diphthong a bit higher, close to true mid. — Eru·tuon 18:50, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Do you have a source or that? One of the kings of Great Britain (I think it was George VI) was said to have a mixed RP-Cockney accent as he used [ɑɪ] for PRICE and [eə] for SQUARE. While the former is acceptable in current RP (as long as the onset isn't too high and too rounded and the second element is closer to [i] than [ə]), the second one isn't. Mr KEBAB (talk) 18:59, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
@Mr KEBAB: It's mainly from personal observation. Geoff Lindsey mentions lowering of dress and face, but not of square. I could be misremembering. Lindsey's post on square doesn't mention lowering, but only monophthongization. — Eru·tuon 20:18, 29 April 2018 (UTC)
Gilgamesh, might the rationale for your proposal be a bit on the WP:CRYSTALBALL side of things? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 16:58, 30 April 2018 (UTC)

IPA FAQ template[edit]

@Nardog: I appreciate your stepping forward and creating {{IPA FAQ}} – I am certain you did so with the best intentions. However, I think we should discuss this FAQ before we endorse it even more. I think that especially the third and the fourth questions do not merit promulgation.

As I see it, the third question about arbitrary/unreferenced/original research is one-sided POV and should therefore not be included in a FAQ. I have a number of reasons:

  • Our praxis is pretty much the opposite of what the answer suggests: We are referring to sources when discussing our transcription guide, thus effectively following WP:NOR.
  • There has been a RfC about one of the most arbitrary/unreferenced signs, see RfC: Should we continue recommending the sign ⟨ɵ⟩? As a result of this RfC, we no longer use this sign.
  • Past discussion about the question of WP:NOR on this talk page have shown there is no consensus: some of us think that it applies and others that it does not.

The fourth answer sounds as if we wanted to exempt pronunciation information from WP:V. I do not see either a basis or a need for such an exemption. Pronunciation information can be challenged like any other information. If nobody finds a reliable source, it should be deleted. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 10:20, 7 May 2018 (UTC)

How would you suggest wording the third answer based on your understanding of what is meant? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 19:22, 7 May 2018 (UTC)
Very sorry, I forgot to include a suggestion for improvement. I suggest we simply drop the third and fourth question, and mention the word “pan-dialectal” in the second one, maybe like this (new part is underlined):
Listing multiple national pronunciations after every Wikipedia entry word quickly becomes unwieldy, and listing only one leads to accusations of bias. Therefore, we are using a transcription that aims at being pan-dialectal (see Help:IPA/English). Of course, if a particular dialect or local pronunciation is relevant to the topic, as is often the case with place names, it may be listed in addition to the wider pronunciation.
à+ --mach 🙈🙉🙊 17:02, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that this third answer is unnecessary. The point of an FAQ is to avoid rehashing of the same points over and over again in a way that wastes people's time. The notion that our specific transcription system is OR is one that you yourself have brought up and we've had to explain to you.
I do agree, though, that there is a bit of needle-threading needed in that third answer in parsing between an OR transcription system and an OR pronunciation. The former is not under the purview of WP:NOR because it's an in-house convention. The latter is because it's actual information we're attempting to convey in the project.
I will, however, be restoring Nardog's FAQ template, since it's clear from your above comments that templatizing this content is not what you object to, but rather you would like to modify some of the content in the FAQ, which restoring the template will not hinder. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 18:47, 8 May 2018 (UTC)
The whole purpose of creating the template was to eliminate discrepancies between the essentially same note at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Pronunciation, Help talk:IPA and here (it also existed at Talk:International Phonetic Alphabet until it was removed a few weeks ago, which I'm fine with), which had become outdated or had disagreements with each other to varying extents. If you think the note itself has problems, then restoring the old note instead of modifying the template doesn't help, does it?
At Help talk:IPA, you removed the note altogether; although I can see why you did it because the answers are written with the English IPA key in mind, I think the first question is pertinent to all languages. So I think we can solve this by rewriting the answer to the first question to be more language-neutral and making the other questions optional.
I agree the fourth question can go. As for the second and third questions, I agree there's room for improvement and they may be merged into one question. I'll see what I can come up with. Nardog (talk) 07:32, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
Just realized we were using {{RecurringThemes}} totally wrong so I filed {{IPA FAQ}} for deletion. The FAQ is now at /FAQ. Nardog (talk) 08:02, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
This is the best I could phrase it, but I can already see what the counterargument would be. If you've got a better idea, feel free to be bold. Nardog (talk) 10:34, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
@J. 'mach' wust: I see what you're doing with this edit but I don't think it's appropriate to rehash a debate in the FAQ. At most, the note is an invitation for editors to research previous discussions before weighing in on the issue so that there isn't unnecessary repetition. The way you've worded it is practically an invitation for further debate. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 19:23, 10 May 2018 (UTC)
If this FAQ is to mention the controversial OR questions at all (one might also argue that controversial questions should not be included because the debate has not settled), then it should mention both sides. Mentioning only one side of the controversy is a blatant violation of NPOV.
Another thought: We might simply remove the OR question from the FAQ. Our pronunciation guide no longer prescribes any obvious OR signs (they have all been removed over the last couple of years). Therefore, it is unlikely that the OR question is going to be asked frequently in the future.
@Aeusoes1: Please stop boosting your POV on the OR question by pretending the other side is “fringe” or limited to myself. I am not alone. For all we know, the number of Wikipedians who uphold that WP:NOR applies to our pronunciation key is probably similar to the number of Wikipedians who uphold that it does not. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 09:51, 11 May 2018 (UTC)
Mach, could you elaborate on what the counterargument of the "other Wikipedians" would be? Or perhaps another way of asking this is, how would you, for one, summarize the arguments of both sides (or even just yours)? I'd like to ask Aeusoes1 the same question. How would you answer the third question in your own words?
I think I'd be fine with removing the question altogether, not only because we've eliminated our own quirks in the diaphonemic system to a large degree as Mach points out, but also because the answer to the second question kind of serves as the answer to the third as well—whether it's OR or not, listing variants quickly becomes unwieldy and listing only one leads to accusations of bias, and our system is a solution for that.
But I wasn't there when the debate was ongoing and you two have been here for (from my perspective) quite some time, so I'm interested in hearing how you would describe it. Nardog (talk) 13:38, 11 May 2018 (UTC)
I would not be in favor of removing the question altogether. The issue of the transcription scheme goes beyond just the use of a symbol to represent a difference in incidence; complaints of original research predate the implementation of this usage and we've eliminated these symbols because it was likely confusing, not because it was original research.
The argument that comes up is that even the transcription scheme itself, by being a unique synthesis of other transcription schemes, must fall under the purview of WP:NOR. It doesn't and we've had to explain this to different editors repeatedly over the years:
We've said it to RandomCritic (/Archive 1#Problems, /Archive 1#Controversial, OR), an anonymous user (/Archive 1#Problems 2), another anonymous user (/Archive 3#While Chart Is Useful - It Violates All Wikipedia Principles, Taivo, (/Archive 3#Barred i), Bazj (/Archive 7#Hertfordshire), Kudpung, (/Archive 9, /Archive 10), Martin Hogbin, (also Archive 10), and W.P. Uzer (/Archive 15).
In these cases, these individual editors were either convinced or walked away in frustration because no one else wanted to do away with the diaphonemic nature of the system entirely. The most vocal argument along the NOR lines has come from J. 'mach' wust themself, who has repeatedly (/Archive 16, /Archive 17, /Archive 18) brought the issue up and gotten no traction. Mach even attempted to take the issue to WP:NOR/N, where it was kicked back because participants there agreed that the issue was WP:NOTOR (Wikipedia:No original research/Noticeboard/Archive 35#Is it OK for pronunciation symbols to be Original Research?).
So what we have here is a small trickle of editors who have, over the years, argued against using the diaphonemic approach entirely. Their reasons have been varied, but mach's wording misrepresents both the reasons and the representativeness of this opposition. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 20:44, 11 May 2018 (UTC)
That is a useful sum-up of your NOR-does-not-apply POV. Let me give you a sum-up of the NOR-does-apply POV.
The reason why NOR should apply to our IPA key is very straightforward: WP:NOR applies to all material on Wikipedia. It is as simple as that. Now the more difficult question is why anybody would think that the IPA key is exempt from NOR, as the proponents of the NOR-does-not-apply POV claim. All too often, they do not care to justify their POV at all, but instead just repeat it as if it were a matter of fact (like Aeusoes1 in the above post). The main justification for their POV seems to be that our IPA key is more like a house style and therefore does not fall under NOR. I think there are several reasons why this does not hold:
  • If you change a style, e.g. the color of a heading or a font, then the information stays the same. If you change a transcription, then you are changing the information. Different transcriptions like /stɑːrt/ and /stɑrt/ may be equivalent in an abstract way, but they carry different information – /stɑːrt/ implies vowel length, but /stɑrt/ does not.
  • The pronunciation symbols reside in the actual transcriptions that are being used in the article namespace body texts, where NOR clearly applies. The IPA key may reside in a different namespace where NOR may not apply. However, it is only a secondary abstraction from the actual transcriptions in the article namespace.
  • In contrast to styles, the use of specific pronunciation symbols can be challenged on the grounds of WP:VER.
I agree with Aeusoes1 that there has only been a handful of outspoken proponents of the NOR-does-apply POV. However, the outspoken proponents of the NOR-does-not-apply POV are hardly more numerous than that – and even if they were two or three times as numerous (which I very much doubt), then it would still be a blatant violation of NPOV if this FAQ exclusively mentioned their POV. They just had the advantage of being here first, and of having among them one of the most proliferous Wikipedia authors ever.
Aeusoes1 is right that most NOR-does-apply proponents have walked away in frustration. I did not, and as Aeusoes1 has mentioned, it took me a lot of effort. However, Aeusoes1 forgot to mention the outcome: I did get traction in the end and succeeded with the RfC: Should we continue recommending the sign ⟨ɵ⟩? I pointed out that our use of ⟨ɵ⟩ was unique to Wikipedia, and the vote for discontinuing ⟨ɵ⟩ was 7:1. And we have discontinued the other OR signs are gone as well, especially ⟨aː⟩ and ⟨ɒː⟩. So it seems to me we are now de facto mostly sticking to NOR. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 10:49, 12 May 2018 (UTC)
It wasn't a sum-up of my POV, it was a sum-up of how often the issue has come up. As should be clear by both the RfC you linked to and the conversation at NORN, the consensus to remove those symbols came about because other editors were convinced that the use of the symbols would be confusing and unhelpful to readers. Sure, some (such as Mach) were motivated by the issue of original research (the same ones who chime that tune from time to time) but to imply that we all opted to discontinue the signs because they were OR is misleading. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 14:32, 12 May 2018 (UTC)
Then we should remove the question, or at best just link to the previous discussions. We're plunging into the very discussion the FAQ is trying to deter. Nardog (talk) 14:42, 12 May 2018 (UTC)
Yeah, I guess we can remove it and see how it goes. If the issue starts coming up again, we can revisit how best to present it in the FAQ. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 15:34, 12 May 2018 (UTC)
Done. It would've probably served as WP:BEANS however well it was worded anyway. Nardog (talk) 15:53, 12 May 2018 (UTC)
Thanks. With regards to guessing my motives, Aeusoes1 is of course mistaken. Like the majority, I voted for removing ⟨ɵ⟩ because I was convinced that it would be confusing and unhelpful to readers. Avoiding confusion and helping the readers is NOR in a nutshell. Original research is confusing and unhelpful, and that is why we have NOR as one of our core content policies, as a tool for keeping up our quality. I do not understand why some people refuse to recognize this tool. However, the important thing is that we uphold the spirit of NOR and remove confusing and unhelpful material. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 18:50, 13 May 2018 (UTC)
Sorry, but the two are not as closely intertwined as you are making it seem. Breaches in original research might impact readability, and something can be simultaneously OR and confusing. But generalizing it as you have is simply false. But since this has no bearing on any content within main space or without, we can either leave this debate/discussion for another day or move it to one of our respective talk pages. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 03:04, 14 May 2018 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────As much as you both have my sympathy to some extents, I see nothing productive coming out of this discussion at this point. I suggest we archive this thread. Nardog (talk) 04:00, 14 May 2018 (UTC)

That's a bit drastic, don't you think? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 16:32, 14 May 2018 (UTC)
How so? We've resolved the matter as far as Mach's original points. Nardog (talk) 16:55, 14 May 2018 (UTC)
It seems like you're suggesting that we manually archive a thread on a page that has automated archiving because you don't want a pointless conversation to go on. If that's your reason to archive, it's unnecessary as I've already made the gesture to cease the discussion or move it elsewhere.
I don't like archiving a discussion just a few days after a decision is made, since it can hide the decision from people who might attend to their watch pages less frequently but may still have something productive to say. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 18:47, 14 May 2018 (UTC)

Help with Chinedum Ndukwe[edit]