Phonetic transcription

Phonetic transcription

Learners vary in their opinions about the usefulness of a phonetic transcription. Some believe it is indispensable, others claim it is too complicated and makes learning more difficult. It is unquestionable, however, a phonetic transcription is the most practical graphic way of presenting the sounds of speech. It does, indeed, require learning a dozen or so new graphic symbols (for some vowels and some consonants), but it is really not that complicated and when we succeed, we may find the transcription very useful. Say It Right uses a transcription modeled after the existing popular IPA transcriptions, but slightly modified to account for various inconsistencies and adapted to present accurately the sounds and stressing patterns of both General American (GA) and Standard British (SB) English.

1) The IPA mark /ː/ commonly denoting vowel length is not used in transcribing words, phrases, and sentences in this coursebook. We consider it misleading, as vowel length in English is relative and dependent upon the context and manner of articulation. The traditional way of transcribing phonemic pairs such as beat / bead (/biːt/ /biːd/) suggests a vowel of equal or comparable length, whereas in fact, the length of /i/ in both words is considerably different. Moreover, the traditional way of transcribing the GA vowel /æ/ suggests, that it is a short vowel, while according to all available accoustic research, this vowel has the longest average duration (sic!) of all simple vowels in GA. One should assume that vowels are generally longer in stressed syllables before voiced consonants and at the end of words.
2) In transcribing the vowel occurring in SB pronunciation of words such as bad or cat, the IPA symbol /æ/ is replaced with /a/, following a progressing centralization of the sound ash in SB, making it more and more different from the frontal and tense articulation of that sound in GA.
3) The symbol /ɨ/ is used to denote a lax midcentral, though slightly raised and lax articulation of the vowel /ɪ/ in unstressed syllables. In GA, it may occur interchangeably with schwa /ə/.
4) Symbols /ṱ/ /ḓ/ are used for denoting tapping or flapping in GA. A flap is an ambisyllabic sound, and so its correct denotation in a transcription showing syllabification is not possible. Therefore, in the transcription used here, it is assigned to the syllable in which a slow and careful articulation would render, respectively, a stop-plosive /t/ or /d/, following the rules of syllabification adopted for the coursebook. The nasal tapping of the intervocalic cluster /nt/ in words such as center, twenty etc. in GA is treated as optional. If the tapped /t/ occurs between words (e.g. it is), both words are linked with the symbol / ⌣  /, indicating that they should be articulated without a pause.
5) Symbols /t/ /p/ /k/ indicate an epenthetic (or inserted) consonant e.g. sense /sents/, lymph /lɪmpf/, length /leŋkθ/.
6) Symbols /əl/ /ən/ /əm/ indicate a potentially syllabic consonant. The articulation of such contexts may differ depending on the speed and manner of speech, e.g. local /ʹlɜʊ.kəl/, button /ʹbʌt.ən/, plasm /ʹplæz.əm/.
7) The symbol /r/ denotes linking or intrusive r, e.g. far-off /ˈfɑrʹɒf/, drawing /ʹdrɔr.ɨŋ/.
8) The symbol /˙/ indicates a possible vowel reduction and syllable compression and smoothing in connected speech, e.g. virus /ʹvaɪ˙ə.rəs/ (SB) → /ʹvaɪ.rəs/ or /ʹvaɪ˙ər.əs/ (GA) → /ʹvaɪr.əs/.
9) In GA, vowels /ɪ, e, ʌ, ə, ɑ, ɔ, ʊ/ followed by /r/ within the same syllable are realized as full or partial rhotic vowels, denoted here, respectively, as /ɪr/, /er/, /ɜr/, /ər/, /ɑr/, /ɔr/, /ʊr/. The vowel /æ/ followed by /r/ in the same syllable is currently most frequently realized as the rhotic vowel /er/. Rhotic diphthongs /aɪ˙ər, eɪ˙ər, ɔɪ˙ər, aʊ˙ər, oʊ˙ər/ are treated here as having a bisyllabic articulation, which is commonly found in slow and careful speech. In faster speech, the two syllables may undergo compression and smoothing, the processes which lead to an articulation commonly perceived as monosyllabic.
10) Symbols /i, u, ʊ, əʊ, oʊ/ in syllables separated with a dot or not marked with stress indicate reduced forms of the phonemes /i, u, ʊ, ɜʊ, oʊ/. The reduction means a loss of one or more articulatory features.
11) The transcription assumes syllabification based on a principle that open syllables may only end in vowels­ /i, æ, u, ɜr, ɑ, ɔ/ and diphthongs /aɪ, eɪ, ɔɪ, aʊ, oʊ, ɜʊ, eə, ɪə, ʊə/, while consonant clusters between vowels are separated in such a way that the first (or only) consonant is assigned to the preceding syllable. In compounds, syllabification is similar, providing the separation does not occur between the words which comprise the compound.
12) Syllable prominence is denoted in the following way:
     ʹ = primary stress, i.e. the main stress of the utterance, denoting a syllable featuring the most significant tonic change, e.g. funny /ʹfʌn.i/.
    ˈ = secondary stress, i.e. a subordinate stress denoting a syllable marked with volume and tonic change to a lesser degree than in the case of primary stress, but having a considerable impact on rhythm, e.g. Japanese /ˈʤæp.əʹniz/.
     ˌ = tertiary stress denoting syllables containing full (i.e. not reduced) vowels, but which show no tonic activity. Besides preserving all or nearly all features of the full vowel, this degree of stress has an impact on the features of consonants in the onset of syllables (aspiration, lack of reduction, limitations on tapping etc.), as well as – to a lesser degree – the rhythm of speech. It is frequently a residue of a higher degree stress in derivative forms and in words undergoing stress shift (or iambic reversal), and also occurs in unreduced components of compounds. In other cases, it may result from rhythmic rules, the unreducible nature of diphthongs, the origin of the word (e.g. foreign words or borrowings) or other reasons, e.g. programme /ʹprɜʊˌɡræm/, campaign /ˌkæmʹpeɪn/, Abraham /ʹeɪ.brəˌhæm/, electronic /ˈelˌekʹtrɑ.nɨk/.
. or no mark = lack of stress (or weak stress), resulting in a reduced vowel, e.g. today /təʹdeɪ/, images /ʹɪm.ɨ.ʤɨz/.



/i/    steep, sea, ski, city
/ɪ/    tip, hymn
/ɨ/    addict, acid
/e/    get, said
/æ/    back, plaid (GA)
/a/    back, plaid (SB)
/ʌ/    cut, country, love
/ə/    above, oppose
/ər/    waiter, understand (GA)
/ɜ/    hurt, stir, work (SB)
/ɜr/    hurt, stir, work (GA)
/ə/    waiter, visitor (SB)
/u/    boot, two, annual
/ʊ/    book, could, educate
/ɔ/    law, thought
/ɑ/    start, father (SB)
/ɑ/    lot, odd (GA)
/ɒ/    lot, odd (SB)
/aɪ/    kite, high, try
/eɪ/    take, day, steak
/ɔɪ/    coin, boy
/aʊ/    how, mouth
/oʊ/    coat, logo, oasis (GA)
/ɜʊ/    coat, Soho (SB)
/əʊ/    yellow, oasis (SB)
/ɪə/    here, beer, near (SB)
/eə/    stare, fair (SB)
/ʊə/    cure, jury, Euro (SB)


/p/    pipe, happen, top
/b/    book, bubble, cab
/t/    take, cotton, sit
/d/    dull, leader, odd
/k/    kick, school
/g/    geese, giggle, big
/f/    fan, coffee, rough
/v/    van, love
/θ/    through, moth
/ð/    this
/s/    stick, hiss
/z/    zebra, roses, buzz
/ʃ/    shoe, station, chic, sure
/ʒ/    genre, pleasure, beige
/h/    hail, who
/ʧ/    chip, nature, which
/ʤ/    joke, hedge
/m/    mother, hammer, comb
/n/    nothing, funny, know
/ŋ/    king, think
/r/    right, wry
/l/    look, tall
/w/    walk, what, queen
/j/    yolk, use, beauty