Re: Transcriptions of "Unicode"

From: Lukas Pietsch (
Date: Fri Jan 12 2001 - 09:47:25 EST

Marco Cimarosti wrote:
> I don't fully agree with Mark Davis' API transcription of "Unicode":

Neither do I, but partly for different reasons.

> 1) I think that IPA transcriptions should be in [square brackets], while
> phonemic transcriptions should be in /slashes/. If neither enclosing is
> present, the transcription is ambiguous.

Right. And that's actually part of the key to the problem's answer:

> 2) AFAIK, the phoneme [o:] (a long version of "o" in "got") does not
> in any standard pronunciation of contemporary English. It should rather
> the diphthong [ou] (where the [u] would probably better be U+028A).

In America, transcribing the vowel in "code" as /o/ (and "made" as /e/) is
not uncommon, at least in *phonemic* transcription. Generally, American
accents have less diphthongization in these sounds than British accents
have, and phonemically it makes sense to see these sounds as part of the
series of "long vowels". A *narrow phonetic* transcription would have
something like [u+006F u+028A] for American, and [u+0259 u+028A] for

> 3) The transcription shows the primary stress on the first syllable, and
> secondary stress on the last one. In the few occasions when I heard
> English speakers saying "Unicode", I had the impression that it rather
> the other way round.

I can't tell, because where I live I don't get to talk to native speakers
about Unicode a lot. But: According to standard word-formation and
pronunciation patterns in English, the stress pattern shown ('uni,code) is
absolutely what you'd expect: as in "uniform", "unisex", "unicorn",
"universe". (D. Jones, English Pronouncing Dictionary, doesn't even mark a
secondary stress on the third syllable at all.)

> 4) As "Unicode" is the proper name of an international standard, and it
> built with two English roots of French origin, it could as well be
> considered a French word, which would lead to a totally different
> transcription.

Right, but this particular pattern of merging word roots into a new word
does suggest English provenance, I think. And, historically, that's where
it did come from.

But there's another inconsistency in the transcription: the vowels in the
first ("u-") and third ("-code") syllable are both phonemically long.
Either you put the length mark on both (recommended for *phonetic*
transcription), or on neither (okay with *phonemic* transcription). (Of
course, if you transcribe the third syllable as a diphthong then you won't
get a length mark there.)

According to the conventions in D. Jones, English Pronouncing Dictionary,
you'd get something like:

[u+02C8 u+006A u+0075 u+02D0 u+006E u+026A u+006B u+0259 u+028A u+0064]


Lukas Pietsch
University of Freiburg
English Department

Phone (p.) (#49) (761) 696 37 23

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