Help talk:IPA for English

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Phoneme and Diaphoneme[edit]

I read in one section above that "Bolinger’s use is slightly different from ours (1) because Bolinger’s /ɵ/ is not a diaphoneme, but a phoneme..." Could someone clarify the contrast between these two terms ("phoneme" and "DIAphoneme")? Thanks in advance. (talk) 19:39, 5 March 2016 (UTC)

Have you read diaphoneme? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 03:56, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
I am afraid the article diaphoneme is not helpful because it does not properly distinguish between diaphonemes and allophones.
According to Bolinger’s analysis, the /ɵ/ is a phoneme, that is, an actual sound that occurs in English. It belongs to a triadic system of English unstressed vowel phonemes, which consists of /ə/, /ɨ/ and /ɵ/. They occur e.g. in Willa /wɪlə/, Willie /wɪlɨ/ and willow /wɪlɵ/, but also as unstressed parts of the diphthongs e.g. in price /praɨs/ or mouth /maɵθ/.
Diaphonemes are not actual sounds that occur in any variety of English. They are abstractions for a joint descriptions of dialects with different phonemes. Consider the three words trap, grass and palm. British English has the phoneme /æ/ in the word trap and the phoneme /ɑː/ in the words grass and palm. American English, however, has the phoneme /æ/ in the words trap and grass and the phoneme /ɑː/ in the word palm. For a joint description of British and American English, we might posit three diaphonemes |æ| (in trap), |aˑ| (in grass) and |ɑː| (in palm). These diaphonemes are defined by a dialect-specific assignment to phonemes:
  • |æ| → /æ/ (in British English and in American English)
  • |aˑ| → /æ/ (in American English)
  • |aˑ| → /ɑː/ (in British English)
  • |ɑː| → /ɑː/ (in British English and in American English)
In a similar vein, the diaphoneme |ɵ| as it was being used in Wikipedia was defined as follows:
  • |ɵ| → /oʊ/ (in some varieties of English)
  • |ɵ| → /ə/ (in other varieties of English)
So when we were transcribing the word omit as |ɵmɪt|, we meant that some pronounce the word as /oʊmɪt/ while others pronounce it as /əmɪt/. By contrast, when Bolinger transcribed it as /ɵmɪt/, he meant that the word was actually pronounced as /ɵmɪt/. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 11:36, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
To be fair, a phoneme is also an abstraction, though one with more cognitive reality than diaphonemes.
Are you implying that the diaphoneme article needs to distinguish between a diaphoneme and an allophone? — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 18:33, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
Why thank you! This makes it much clearer. Also yes, the article was not too helpful in that issue. (talk) 19:01, 6 March 2016 (UTC)
@Ƶ§œš¹: Indeed, the examples in the lead of the article diaphoneme do not show the characteristics that distinguish diaphonemes from phonemes (and their allophones). They might as well be (allophones of) the same phoneme. And there is not even a link to Phonological history of English vowels, which is highly relevant for the concept of diaphonemes (in English). --mach 🙈🙉🙊 20:48, 6 March 2016 (UTC)

Ok Ayoyonetizen (talk) 20:54, 15 July 2016 (UTC)


I think you should remove it. It's a name that can be pronounced in many ways even by an English speaker unlike John or Matt. For example Rosalina is often shortened to Rosa, and that end 'a' isn't reduced like 'a mission'. Yes, it is a Spanish name but most English speakers will pronounce that Rosa with a long a. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:31, 22 April 2016 (UTC)

Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (2008) and Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (2011) list only the variant with /ə/, so we need a citation for "most English speakers". Mr KEBAB (talk) 11:17, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
I’d rather think it should be the other way round: If there is the slightest danger of confusion, let’s remove the sample unless there is a source that discusses the issue and explicitly reassures that there is no danger of confusion (not just dictionaries that a single pronunciation). The samples should be helpful.
And while we’re at it, I think we should also replace the a mission example. It is confusing because the bold font makes it look as if the article were stressed: /ˈeɪ ˌmɪʃən/. Instead of the two current examples, I think the words ago and comma are better. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 19:52, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
There's no danger of confusion with Rosa's because no one really pronounces Rosa with a long a. That's not a thing. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 22:38, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
I haven't ever heard anyone saying /ˈroʊsɑː/ or /ˈroʊzɑː/. That would strike me as really unnatural, and I would be likely to interpret them as saying row saw or rose awe if they had the cotcaught merger as I do. — Eru·tuon 22:56, 24 April 2016 (UTC)
OK, it is your personal feeling that it would be unnatural. But can you really make sure that everybody feels this way? Another benefit of using the example word commA is that this is the word John Wells has used (see Lexical set#Unstressed vowels). So far, that makes two reasons for changing Rosa’s to comma (use in reputable source, confusion cannot be ruled out), but zero reasons for keeping it. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 12:45, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
The benefit of Rosa's is it forms a minimal pair with roses for many speakers. That's the whole point. I think you should trust the native speakers here. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 23:18, 25 April 2016 (UTC)
We are not trying to provide minimal pairs. If we were, our examples would look very different. To the contrary, we are normally using Wells’s lexical sets – except in this case, which seems like a strange inconsistency. I do not trust native speakers. I know that a native speaker’s intuition can often be wrong, especially when it comes to distinctions that do not occur in their own variety.
Since you want to keep Rosa’s, I suggest that as a compromise, we insert Wells’s commA example first (as in all the other cases). And replace the potentially misleading a mission by ago. The minimal pair rationale does not apply to that example any longer after we removed emission for //ᵻ// because it can be pronounced with /iː/. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 05:30, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
Yes, we are normally using Wells's lexical sets, along with example words. I like your proposal. Are you saying "compromise" because you also want to remove Rosa's and roses? I think using a minimal pair to highlight the vowel contrast between Rosa's and roses is important, since people aren't going to be as aware of the distinction (even when they make it) unless it's pointed out to them with a minimal pair. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 22:01, 26 April 2016 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 9 May 2016[edit]

The examples given for ɑː ɒ and ɔː do not seem consistent with a generalized American accent. If possible, it would be helpful if these examples could be paired with a specific accent to avoid confusion with pronunciation. Also, this is my first time contributing to Wikipedia so I have no idea if I'm doing this right. Ailaeshis (talk) 19:37, 9 May 2016 (UTC)

Red information icon with gradient background.svg Not done: please provide reliable sources that support the change you want to be made. Music1201 talk 00:50, 11 May 2016 (UTC)
This is rather not a question about reliable sources – the sources obviously back Ailaeshis’s request –, but about the consensus on this page. The consensus is that our transcriptions should be pan-dialectal. They do not represent the phonemic system of any one dialect, but they are a compromise between some more or less important dialects. While I have my reservations about that consensus – it is more rigid than what we do with regular orthography and in practice, it is often ignored –, the proper way to change it is not just a simple edit request, but a well-discussed WP:RFC. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 04:42, 11 May 2016 (UTC)

Suggestion for "followed by R" example for ʊ[edit]

For the sake of clarity for ESL speakers, I think "courier" is not an ideal example. Though it is an older Norman loanword, the meaning and form is close enough to Modern French courrier (u vs. ʊ) to cause foreseeable confusion. It seems like "ʊr" is virtually nonexistant in non-rhotic (RP) accents too, but for GenAm I think "plural" and "rural" would be better examples where you can hear the distinction between "ʊr and "ər".

Goodpoints (talk) 16:25, 13 May 2016 (UTC)

They would be good examples for GA, but this artificial prescriptive transcription system is not about GA. Instead, it aims at being pan-dialectal. The words plural, rural are transcribed /ˈplʊərəl/, /ˈrʊərəl/. Words that would have /ʊr/ in our prescriptive transcription system are indeed virtually non-existent. There are only 7 matches in CUBE: ur.
I do not know the reason why we treat the sequences of checked vowel + /r/ as if they were units. I suspect it originally was for the sake of symmetry. While it is quite common that phonologies treat the sequences of free vowel + /r/ as units on their own right, I have never seen the same treatment extended to the sequences of checked vowels + /r/. However, our peculiar treatment of these sequences does not do any harm since we do not claim or imply anywhere that they constitute units on their own right. It is only under the hood that they are treated as units. And the transcription /ˈkʊriər/ is obviously equivalent and maybe even preferrable to the transcription /ˈkʊriər/ – the different result when you mouse over them is perfectly negligible. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 18:39, 13 May 2016 (UTC)
Treating them as a single unit is helpful for the mouseover text. For example, I pronounce merry and marry the same. So the mouseover feature of /mær/ and /mɛr/ would not be as helpful as /mær/ and /mɛr/.
Also, a minor correction. This is not a prescriptive transcription system. It's descriptive. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 22:30, 13 May 2016 (UTC)
It may be helpful in the special case of marry and merry. But that is really no explanation for /ʊr/ (or /ɒr, ɪr/) – except if you count symmetry. And there are lots of other mergers where we do not have special mouseover texts. And as long as we prescribe that things like non-rhotic placenames have to be transcribed with /r/, our system is obviously prescriptive. Its being descriptive does not exclude its being prescriptive at the same time. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 06:57, 14 May 2016 (UTC)
Actually, it's the same deal with /ʊr/ and others. Because of vowel mergers and rhotic-non-rhotic differences, those are motivated as well. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 17:58, 14 May 2016 (UTC)
Please tell the original poster (and me) the vowel mergers and rhotic-non-rhotic differences that motivate /ʊr/ (or /ɒr, ɪr/). --mach 🙈🙉🙊 21:53, 14 May 2016 (UTC)
Many speakers pronounce /ɪr/ and /ʊr/ with tense vowels so that a word like clear is pronounced [kli(ː)ɹ] and a word like tour as [tu(ː)ɹ]. This can alter the phonemic alignment of these vowels enough that it can be confusing if we tell these speakers that the vowel in question is actually lax, rather than tense. Speakers like myself have even merged the lax vowels with schwa before /r/ so that a word like syrup is pronounced [ˈsɜɹəp]. Seeing "vowel of sit" separate from the /r/ might lead to pronunciations with /ɜːr/.
This table illustrates a lot of the vowel mergers and splits with English low back vowels. For a speaker with the cot-caught such as myself, the LOT vowel merges with PALM except before /r/, where it merges for most words with GOAT. Having them separate might get a speaker to pronounce /ɒr/ as /ɑːr/
Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 23:42, 15 May 2016 (UTC)
Who is telling anybody that the vowels in the words clear /klɪər/ and tour /tʊər/ are actually lax, rather than tense? And what does this have to do with the sequences /ɪr/ and /ʊr/? If the aim our phoneme sequences really were disambiguating potential mergers, then we would need many more of them. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 00:39, 16 May 2016 (UTC)
Oh wait, I was transcribing clear and tour incorrectly because I myself make those mergers. A number of dictionaries also don't mark the contrast between e.g. /ɪər/ and /ɪr/ but we do. Considering the ways that /r/ alters the pronunciation of preceding vowels, it makes sense to treat /ɪr/ and /ʊr/ as a single unit. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 18:03, 22 May 2016 (UTC)
The thing about words such as mirror and courier is that in these words, the pronunciation of the vowel is not altered by the following /r/, unlike most other vowels followed by /r/. The reason why these vowels are not affected by the following /r/ is that the /r/ is immediately followed by yet another vowel. I would be very surprised if there were any precedence for our grouping together of the sequences of checked vowel + /r/.
If our grouping together of these sequences had any phonological implications, then I think we should discontinue these sequences unless there were solid precedence from outside of Wikipedia. The only reason why I think the grouping together of these sequences is acceptable is because there are no phonological implications. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 20:42, 22 May 2016 (UTC)

Please find-me via Arpanet "finger" process. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, true E off Guildford Cathedral (GB). The past-word is Piltdown Man PH, Sussex [neither E nor W] from Guildford & Kent registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths to: Ha(not_z)lemere, Surrey Evening Telegraph via semaphore (railway). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:49, 16 July 2016 (UTC)

Inconsistent redirects[edit]

Hi there, I find it a bit silly that one lands in a different page depending on whether IPA is spelled all uppercase or not... Compare:

I would say we should make it consistent (my preference is for always redirecting to article space). Thanks. (talk) 06:28, 23 July 2016 (UTC)