View Poll Results: How fluent are you in IPA?
I did not know IPA existed 24 13.56%
I know of IPA but can't read it 100 56.50%
I can read IPA slowly and with some difficulty 30 16.95%
I can read IPA fluently 23 12.99%
Voters: 177. You may not vote on this poll

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  #101  
Old 02-04-2020, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I Love Me, Vol. I View Post
But Wiki--please just use the standard pronunciation guide most of us learned in school.
There was never such a "standard". That's what gets us into trouble sometimes
  #102  
Old 02-04-2020, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by bordelond View Post
Briefly: the best thing about learning IPA via Crystal's book is that I was learning the anatomical foundations of speech sounds at the same time I was connecting those sounds to IPA symbols. The book had all I needed except live sound samples -- I could flip back and forth between sections to connect symbol to anatomical process as my curiosity required.
This is important. The alternative to using IPA is describing each sound. Instead of using the notation /ð/, we can say "voiced dental fricative", "unrounded open back vowel" for /ɑ/, and so on. That's the sort of precision needed when discussing pronunciations.
  #103  
Old 02-04-2020, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bordelond View Post
Once I started college, I was looking around at the various foreign-language dictionaries in the library's reference section (non-lending) and I found this book -- The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language by British linguist (tell me that guy didn't step right out of casting ).
Dang it -- I flubbed this part of my post #98 above. Here's the correction:
... I found this book -- The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language by British linguist David Crystal (tell me that guy didn't step right out of casting ).
  #104  
Old 02-04-2020, 01:09 PM
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[QUOTE=Paxx;22118947]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paxx View Post
Please use IPA to demonstrate how those words don't sound the same to everyone.
These are all theoretical, because I don't know the particulars by heart, but this is how you would use I.P.A. --

In accent X, "caught" and "cot" are both pronounced [kɑt].

In accent Y, "caught" is pronounced [kɔt] and "cot" is pronounced [kɒt].

In accent Z, "caught" is pronounced [kɒt] and "cot" is pronounced [kɑt].

In accent X, "bath" is pronounced [bæθ].

In accent Y, "bath" is pronounced [baθ].

In Accent A, "Mary" is [meɪri], "marry" is [mæri], and "merry" is [mɛri].

In Accent B, all three are [meɪri]

In Accent C, "Mary" and "marry" are [meɪri] and merry is [mɛri]

In Accent D, "Mary" and "merry" are [meɪri] and marry is [mæri]

In Accent E, "Mary" is [meɪri] and "merry" and "marry" are [mæri]


Quote:
Also, why do you write "I.P.A."?
I'm not sure that this question or its answer is either very interesting or relevant to this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
But I cannot appreciate a difference. Maybe it's my hearing disability, but just like Cochrane, caught and cot sound identical as do dawn and don and all the other examples people use. How would I be any better off learning pronunciations I'm already fine with?
Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
And I understand that some people find this fascinating, and do indeed spend a lot of time discussing it. But for a lot of other people, the subject very rarely comes up ...

... But I'm not all that interested in the pronunciation differences themselves. Mileage, obviously, varies.
The I.P.A. is a tool for discussing pronunciation in a written form. If you're not discussing pronunciation in a written form, then there's nothing more to say.

It's like asking "Why should I bother to learn how to use a thermometer?," being told "So you can take your temperature," and then replying "I'm not interested in taking my temperature." The only reply to that is "..."

Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
Fascinating how you think you can characterize me.
I think I can characterize you, because of the words you use, the overtones of sarcasm and dismissal. I could be misinterpreting it. But if you're point is simply that "I am not motivated to learn I.P.A., because I don't find myself needing to transcribe pronunciations in a written medium," then you could just say that, and that would be the end of that conversation.

There's no need to reference drinking beer or to make comparisons to learning how to read Cyrillic script or using sarcastic "Cheerios," especially since it's objectively silly to claim that learning Cyrillic script is inherently easier than learning I.P.A. notation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
One thing I did not know about the IPA is how fanatically devoted to it some of its users are, as evidenced by several SDMB threads I've read wherein pronunciation is an issue.
Speaking for myself, I'm no more fanatic about using I.P.A. to transcribe pronunciation than I am in using the English alphabet to write in English, or using Hindu-Arabic figures to record numbers or using dishwashing liquid to clean dishes. It's the tool for the job. It might not be the only conceivable tool in existence, but if someone is going to ask me to do one of those things, I'm going to choose the logical tool, and I'm going to look sideways at someone who wants to engage in that activity, but disparages or is dismissive of the tool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
It's amazing how devoted some people are to their exponentials and integrals and other weird notations when mathematics is under discussion.

And talk about fanatics going on about time signatures and keys and staffs when music composition is being considered.

It's almost like specialized topics need to be notated in specialized ways.
Yep.
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  #105  
Old 02-04-2020, 02:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
I could be misinterpreting it.
Yes, you are.

Quote:
But if you're point is simply that "I am not motivated to learn I.P.A., because I don't find myself needing to transcribe pronunciations in a written medium," then you could just say that, and that would be the end of that conversation.
OK. I am not motivated to learn I.P.A., because I don't find myself needing to transcribe pronunciations in a written medium.

I still find your belief that you can characterize me to be patronizing and offensive.

By the way, it's "your point," not "you're." Cot ya.

Last edited by cochrane; 02-04-2020 at 02:30 PM.
  #106  
Old 02-04-2020, 02:30 PM
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Never mind. Duplicate caused by server glitch.

Last edited by cochrane; 02-04-2020 at 02:31 PM.
  #107  
Old 02-04-2020, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
Why would you have an “easier time”?

See, this is not about IPA and it’s not about your ability to learn. It’s about this attitude that you have chosen to adopt and add to this some kind of macho posturing. It’s an anti-education, pro-ignorance attitude, which is worse than just not knowing something.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
Fascinating how you think you can characterize me. Thing is, I only have enough room in my brain for things that I need to know every day. I'm not posturing and I'm not anti-education or pro-ignorance. It's just not something I need to know to get through my day. Just like reading Cyrillic. Or your opinion of my attitude. Cheerio.

Gee, I wonder who could be like that in this thread? No one is that judgmental.
This is getting far too snippy.

This is IMHO. Everyone is free to have their own opinion. Do not attack someone just because their opinion is different from yours.

Let's not turn this into an argument. Instead of snipping at each other, focus on the actual topic of the thread, please.
  #108  
Old 02-04-2020, 04:10 PM
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Don't you get Macron involved in this discussion.
  #109  
Old 02-05-2020, 09:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
In Accent A, "Mary" is [meɪri], "marry" is [mæri], and "merry" is [mɛri].

In Accent B, all three are [meɪri]

In Accent C, "Mary" and "marry" are [meɪri] and merry is [mɛri]

In Accent D, "Mary" and "merry" are [meɪri] and marry is [mæri]

In Accent E, "Mary" is [meɪri] and "merry" and "marry" are [mæri]
In Accent F, "Mary" and "merry" are [mɛri] and marry is [mæri]
  #110  
Old 02-05-2020, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post

In Accent A, "Mary" is [meɪri], "marry" is [mæri], and "merry" is [mɛri].

In Accent B, all three are [meɪri]

In Accent C, "Mary" and "marry" are [meɪri] and merry is [mɛri]

In Accent D, "Mary" and "merry" are [meɪri] and marry is [mæri]

In Accent E, "Mary" is [meɪri] and "merry" and "marry" are [mæri]
While I mostly appreciate the utility of I.P.A., I think this passage is illustrative of its limitations as a teaching tool, at least in text.

My own dialect happens to feature the Mary-merry-marry merger. All three words are identical to me, and I cannot hear any difference, even when people are supposedly exaggerating their pronunciations to illustrate the differences.

While I understand intellectually that some people pronounce these words differently, I.P.A. doesn't really help me to understand the differences. It does me no good to read that "Mary" is [meɪri], "marry" is [mæri], and "merry" is [mɛri]. To me, they all sound the same. So I still have no idea what vowel sounds [eɪ], [æ], or [ɛ] represent. I couldn't even tell you which of the three I use when I say "Mary," because I don't know which of the three I'm saying.

Last edited by engineer_comp_geek; 02-05-2020 at 02:44 PM. Reason: fixed quote tags
  #111  
Old 02-05-2020, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
So I still have no idea what vowel sounds [eɪ], [æ], or [ɛ] represent.
I'll help.

[eɪ] as in "may"
[æ] as in "mat"
[ɛ] as in "bet"



I think those should be pretty consistent across most major dialects, but I wouldn't be surprised if some dialects shift those vowels around.

If I were using the phonics notation we were taught in first grade, it would be mārē vs mărē vs měrē. That would be my "traditional" way of notating it, but it's hardly universal and certainly not an international standard.

Last edited by pulykamell; 02-05-2020 at 02:37 PM.
  #112  
Old 02-05-2020, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
While I mostly appreciate the utility of I.P.A., I think this passage is illustrative of its limitations as a teaching tool, at least in text.

...

While I understand intellectually that some people pronounce these words differently, I.P.A. doesn't really help me to understand the differences. It does me no good to read that "Mary" is [meɪri], "marry" is [mæri], and "merry" is [mɛri]. To me, they all sound the same. So I still have no idea what vowel sounds [eɪ], [æ], or [ɛ] represent. I couldn't even tell you which of the three I use when I say "Mary," because I don't know which of the three I'm saying.
You're right -- use of IPA in a generalized environment (i.e. this message board) does presuppose knowledge of the system.

To help distinguish [eɪ], [æ], & [ɛ], this page might help. You can click on the symbols in the leftmost column to hear an American English speaker pronounce the vowel represented. For an American English speaker the descriptions of the vowels in the rightmost column are generally OK, but will be problematic for those who pronounce "cot/caught" the same (or who pronounce "burr" and "bird" with the same vowel, as I do).

( /e/ as in "chaotic"? Hmmmm )
  #113  
Old 02-05-2020, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I'll help.

[eɪ] as in "may"
[æ] as in "mat"
[ɛ] as in "bet"

I appreciate that. Based on that, I think that I pronounce all three words as [mɛri]. But don't expect me to remember that next time this question comes up.

As I said, I appreciate the utility of I.P.A. but don't really know it thoroughly. I've memorized some of the consonant symbols, but the vowels often give me trouble.

But I've been in enough discussions where people go back and forth between, "Cot rhymes with not, but caught rhymes with bought," versus "But they all rhyme!", to know that some standardized notation system is necessary. Beyond a very cursory understanding, though, I've never learned it completely.
  #114  
Old 02-05-2020, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Shalmanese View Post
For those of you who have, what was your reason to learn? How long did it take? What method did you use to learn and how fluent would you consider yourself in IPA?
Day 1 of Intro to Linguistics: "Know this before you come back to class."

The symbols used for English just take a few minutes to learn. Children pick it up easily (and deliberately ignorant adults often do not.) The rare stuff, you look up when you need it. E.g. I couldn't tell you off-hand what the symbol for a voiceless pharyngeal fricative is, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it outside of the reference table.
  #115  
Old 02-06-2020, 05:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Elmer J. Fudd View Post
IPA, PBR, MGD. I read them all as long as the labels haven’t peeled off in the tub of ice.
Dear Elmer: not to highyack this thread I have just opened another one inspired by your signature. I thought it would be fair to tell you, I hope this is the right way to do it. Here is the thread I mean:
https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...6#post22122866
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  #116  
Old 02-06-2020, 06:10 AM
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Used to be able to write in IPA even, but that was a long time ago and much of my skill with it (which wasn't great to begin with) was lost in the mists of hops. I think I could still muddle my way through reading a sentence though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruken
Day 1 of Intro to Linguistics: "Know this before you come back to class."
Yup. That and the whole fricative/labial/whathaveyou mouth diagram.
  #117  
Old 02-06-2020, 08:28 PM
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When I was 12, the Publishers Clearinghouse catalog offered Dictionary of Linguistics by Mario Pei at a discount. I grabbed a copy. I read it cover to cover backwards & forwards for the next couple years. It had an IPA chart and a basic explanation of it.

Then when I was 14 I started French class in which the textbook gave all the pronunciation in IPA alongside audio tapes of it being pronounced. This was back in 1973. The textbook title was Son et Sens (sound and meaning), an apt title for the method. It all demonstrated beautifully how valuable and useful a toolkit the IPA is. I took first place in my state in the Concours National de Français each of the four years I competed in it.
  #118  
Old 02-06-2020, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
I don't know exactly how to respond to this, because it seems to be intentionally deceptive. I've posted in a lot of threads about pronunciation using I.P.A. and non-I.P.A. methods. I've never used a transcription like "tʰə̥ˈmɐːtʰɐʉ" to note a basic difference in alternative pronunciations of a word.
The way that example was given was unfair. The IPA is a flexible instrument that can be fine-tuned for minute distinctions of sound or used just as well for the much more elementary phonemes. In fact, such fine-tuning for closely rendered phonetics is a highly specialized sub-discipline in phonology, but is not normally required for anyone else. Whenever we hold discussions about pronunciation here—or you learn pronunciation of a new language from a textbook—the IPA will be set to the phonemic level, which is not scary to the uninitiated like that close phonetic transcription [tʰə̥ˈmɐːtʰɐʉ] is. It'll be /təˈmeɪtoʊ/, using plain English phonemes. You've all seen the schwa symbol; it's no mystery. You've all been introduced to diphthongs in grade school. That's part of the beauty of the IPA: how you can zoom in for phonetics or zoom out for phonemes, as needed. There are various power of magnification available, you might say, like on a microscope.
  #119  
Old 02-07-2020, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
The way that example was given was unfair. The IPA is a flexible instrument that can be fine-tuned for minute distinctions of sound or used just as well for the much more elementary phonemes. In fact, such fine-tuning for closely rendered phonetics is a highly specialized sub-discipline in phonology, but is not normally required for anyone else. Whenever we hold discussions about pronunciation here—or you learn pronunciation of a new language from a textbook—the IPA will be set to the phonemic level, which is not scary to the uninitiated like that close phonetic transcription [tʰə̥ˈmɐːtʰɐʉ] is. It'll be /təˈmeɪtoʊ/, using plain English phonemes. You've all seen the schwa symbol; it's no mystery. You've all been introduced to diphthongs in grade school. That's part of the beauty of the IPA: how you can zoom in for phonetics or zoom out for phonemes, as needed. There are various power of magnification available, you might say, like on a microscope.
Good explanation! The square brackets "[]" indicate a phonetic transcription, which is an encoding of the physical methods of producing the sounds. The forward slashes "//" indicate a phonemic transcription, which is an encoding of the representational partitions of the sounds for a particular dialect. Here is a nice description of the difference.

Making things difficult is that the human brain automatically converts the sounds it hears into phonemes. It takes training to be able to distinguish phonetic differences that your dialect lumps together into a single phoneme. Hence the problem that caught-cot mergers have distinguishing the vowels of those who don't merge.
  #120  
Old 02-07-2020, 12:01 PM
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That's interesting, and I wish the pronunciation guides in the dictionary rigorously distinguished tʰ from t and so on. I understand why they don't, but it would be enormously useful in a beginner's dictionary, so that people who do not speak English could learn how the words are actually pronounced (according to whatever standard).
  #121  
Old 02-07-2020, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
That's interesting, and I wish the pronunciation guides in the dictionary rigorously distinguished tʰ from t and so on. I understand why they don't, but it would be enormously useful in a beginner's dictionary, so that people who do not speak English could learn how the words are actually pronounced (according to whatever standard).
I'm not sure that this level of granularity would be useful to a learner. First of all, what's the purpose of a pronunciation guide in a dictionary? Is it to teach a specific accent? I don't think so. And if it were, which accent would you use for the basis of a phonetic transcription? And on top of that, even two people speaking the same accent will have some differences at a fine level of granularity. At that level, you're also talking significant study of languages to understand the phenomena being transcribed.

It seems to me that phonemic transcription of the most common pronunciations is appropriate for a dictionary.
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  #122  
Old 02-07-2020, 05:03 PM
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And combined with the fact that most native speakers won't actually distinguish between the allophones within a phoneme, a learning speaker doesn't have to get it exactly right to be understood. It's only when trying speak a specific dialect, including removing a foreign "accent", that the exact phonetics matter.

That said, if the learning speaker is coming from a language that makes a phonemic distinction between their new language's allophones, it can be a big help in their comprehension. For example, many languages hear aspirated plosives as separate phonemes from unaspirated ones. Knowing English lumps the aspirated voiceless alveolar plosive and the unaspirated one into a single phoneme* makes it easier for them to understand what the native English speaker is saying.

*Avoiding IPA for those who don't know it. For those who do: [tʰ], [t] = /t/.
  #123  
Old 02-07-2020, 05:21 PM
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I was indeed picturing a learner who would rather learn to speak like a BBC announcer (or whatever; even the "official" received pronunciation guides get updated periodically) than be saddled with a thick, or even thin, foreign accent. Of course, these days there are electronic dictionaries that will speech-synthesize any word at the push of a button, in addition to the ever-growing volume of accessible audio and video clips online.
  #124  
Old 02-08-2020, 02:25 PM
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It's not all that difficult.


I happened to take Russian in Jr. College and Japanese when I started at the 4yr college. By the time I added an ESL Teaching Certificate program to my grand plan, I was well-trained at looking at funny characters and instantly (well, almost) understanding them.


The ESL (English as a Second Language) Teaching Certificate program included a lot of courses from the Linguistics department and the literature of the linguistics field tends to scatter International Phonetic symbols throughout the pages so there was a need to learn IPA and I had a mind flexible enough to grok it.



--G!
  #125  
Old 02-08-2020, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by CairoCarol View Post
Nope, can't read it. I'm sufficiently interested in words and linguistics that if I had enough free time, I would probably learn just for fun. But it's probably on page 17 of my bucket list, so I doubt I ever will.
What she said.
  #126  
Old 02-08-2020, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by MrAtoz View Post
While I mostly appreciate the utility of I.P.A., I think this passage is illustrative of its limitations as a teaching tool, at least in text.
It’s not an illustration of the limitations of I.P.A. as a teaching tool, any more than the English alphabet to someone who hasn’t learned it, mathematical notation to someone who hasn’t learned it or the underlying Concepts, or chemical notation for the same.

You seem to be suggesting that I.P.A. should be apparent without any effort to learn it. It takes minimal effort, but not zero effort.

As Johanna said, I.P.A. is flexible in that you only have to use the notations that mean something to you.

At first, many of the notations are Going to be intellectually or theoretically understood. Should your interest in pronunciation deepen, you will start to hear more things, and indeed you will start to be able speak more sounds, to an extent. At that point, the symbols that were only theoretical will become more meaningful.

And you might need to have a cheat sheet at first. The fact that you might have trouble remembering some of the symbols is not a weakness of I.P.A.

Here is a quick cheat sheet for General American vowels—

[i] meet, heat
[ɪ] mitt, hit
[eɪ] mate, hate
[ɛ] met, het
[æ] mat, hat
[a] (-) just know that this exists in Boston accents
[ä] or [a] (father) (a and ä rarely exist together so often the distinction is ignored)
[u] moot, hoot, food, boot
[ʊ] foot, book
[oʊ] foal, moat, boat
[ɔ] (caught, bought)
[ʌ] mutt, hut, Fudd, butt
[ɑ] Mott, hot, cot, bother
[ɒ] (-) just know that this exists and it’s a rounded vowel
[ɚ] murder, hurt, curt
[ə] unstressed vowel in about, because, diverse, provide
[aɪ] height, bite, might, kite
[aʊ] house, bout, cow
[ju] beauty, cute
[ɔɪ] boy, moist, coil

[e], [o], [ɥ], [y], [œ], [ɜ], [ø], [ʏ] aren't phonemic in most American speech, but you can be generally aware that they might pop up if you are trying to learn British, Australian, or New Zealand accents or pronunciation in, say, French, German, Spanish, or Italian.

A couple of those vowels don't exist in your accent, but tha's okay. Seeing them will tell you "that's different from how I say it."
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Last edited by Acsenray; 02-08-2020 at 07:54 PM.
  #127  
Old 02-11-2020, 10:48 AM
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I'm always annoyed when Wikipedia uses IPA to show how a word is pronounced, though I recognize that it's a lot more precise than, say, spelling it in "phonetic" English or whatever - e.g. "sachet" = "sashay" (since those syllables could be pronounced differently by different English speakers). Most of the symbols I can suss out, but some I just give up on or look up if I have the time.
  #128  
Old 02-12-2020, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
I'm always annoyed when Wikipedia uses IPA to show how a word is pronounced, though I recognize that it's a lot more precise than, say, spelling it in "phonetic" English or whatever - e.g. "sachet" = "sashay" (since those syllables could be pronounced differently by different English speakers). Most of the symbols I can suss out, but some I just give up on or look up if I have the time.
What sort of pronunciation scheme on Wikipedia would spare you the annoyance, then? One of the proprietary ones that each American publisher of dictionaries invents separately for itself? Which one should it be? As a matter of fact, Wikipedia has implemented its own American-style (dare I say "dumbed-down"?) pronunciation scheme to placate the IPA-phobes. Even though there was no need for them to bend over backward, they did. Of course, this scheme is only applied to English names and words, only using the limited set of English phonemes. It would be useless for world languages in general.

Wikipedia links all its IPA pronunciations to each symbol individually, and each of those comes with an audio file. You can get all the information you need with a click in less than 30 seconds. How annoying, right?
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Old 02-13-2020, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
Wikipedia links all its IPA pronunciations to each symbol individually, and each of those comes with an audio file. You can get all the information you need with a click in less than 30 seconds.

Better yet, use Wiktionary (or any of a batch of other sources), and get an audio link to the pronunciation of the word in question. No need to assemble the sounds of the individual symbols, or to click on each one separately. What you want to know is how the word's pronounced, right? The IPA business makes sense in situations in which an audio file's not available; but when audio files are available, why not go straight to one of the whole word?
  #130  
Old 02-13-2020, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Better yet, use Wiktionary (or any of a batch of other sources), and get an audio link to the pronunciation of the word in question. No need to assemble the sounds of the individual symbols, or to click on each one separately. What you want to know is how the word's pronounced, right? The IPA business makes sense in situations in which an audio file's not available; but when audio files are available, why not go straight to one of the whole word?
If you're communicating in a written medium, using written characters makes more sense than links to audio files for every pronunciation you mention. Links to audio files can be useful as additional information, but not as substitutes to transcription.
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*I'm experimenting with E, em, and es and emself as pronouns that do not indicate any specific gender nor exclude any specific gender.

Last edited by Acsenray; 02-13-2020 at 12:44 PM.
  #131  
Old 02-13-2020, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Better yet, use Wiktionary (or any of a batch of other sources), and get an audio link to the pronunciation of the word in question. No need to assemble the sounds of the individual symbols, or to click on each one separately. What you want to know is how the word's pronounced, right? The IPA business makes sense in situations in which an audio file's not available; but when audio files are available, why not go straight to one of the whole word?
You're right, except that Mama Zappa said she was reading Wikipedia, not Wiktionary... I was trying to meet her where she was at. There are occasional Wikipedia articles with whole word audio files, but not enough yet. I sensed her saying that she understood most of the symbols, but would get "annoyed" at seeing the occasional one she didn't know yet.

I really appreciate Wiktionary, though, and like to see it getting some love. It includes depth of information that the more popular sites like dictionary.com often lack, as well as covering worldwide languages, not just English.
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