Re: IPA and Unicode

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Wed Sep 16 1998 - 13:28:47 EDT

Dear Richard,

> Since I work with data which reflects numerous source transcription
> systems, I need two types of phonetic transcription support:
> 1.) a "traditional" phonetic transcription character set, including a
> number on non-IPA symbols, for use in capturing source transcriptions.
> 2.) the current IPA phonetic transcription character set, for use in a
> normalization of the source transcriptions.
> I should like to know to what extent Unicode will allow for
> transcriptions following the current IPA standard, as well as the extent
> of Unicode support for non-IPA "traditional" transcriptions.

Unicode allows for use of whatever characters are encoded in it,
whether they be those for current IPA practice or for various
traditional transcriptions. Numerous characters were added to
the collection of regular Latin letters and IPA letters to
try to cover Americanist, Africanist, or Sinologist traditions,
for example. Some of these are still in current use, and others
represent obsolete practice.

Basically, to use any of these, you simply need system support
and fonts. For most transcriptional systems, the system support
has to be good enough to make correct use of the non-spacing marks
used for many diacritics.

This is not to say that the encoded set is complete yet. There is
a recent proposal in the works to add IPA characters and diacritics
for the representation of disturbed speech and several other tonal

WG2 N1845: Additional IPA "disturbed speech" characters for the UCS
     Source: Michael Everson

> A few examples:
> "curly-tailed-n", for alveolo-palatal (pre-palatal) nasal;
> "curly-tailed-t", for alveolo-palatal (pre-palatal) voiceless stop;
> "curly-tailed-d", for alveolo-palatal (pre-palatal) voiced stop;
> "small-capital omega", for a rounded mid back vowel;
> "Long-Leg Turned Iota", (see Pullum + Ladusaw, 1996:89);
> "Right-Tail Turned Iota", (see Pullum + Ladusaw, 1996:90);

I recall the first three from East Asian traditions. I
don't recognize the last three, but do not doubt that they and
others may be in use.

My suggestion is that you work with the Unicode Technical Committee
to develop a proposal for the addition of additional non-IPA
phonetic symbols in current use (or obsolete, for that matter)
for addition to the Unicode Standard.

--Ken Whistler

> For more examples, please download the Macintosh STEDT font from
> Best,
> Richard
> --
> _______________________________________
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>*<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
> >Richard S. COOK, Jr. <
> > <
> ><
> >>
> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>*<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

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