Re: Transcriptions of "Unicode"

From: Mark Davis (
Date: Fri Jan 12 2001 - 10:51:36 EST

Much as I admire and appreciate the French language (second only to Italian), the proximate derivation of "Unicode" was not from that language, and the transcription should not match the French pronunciation. Instead, it has solid Northern Californian roots (even though not exactly dating from the Gold Rush days).

According to the references I have, the prefix "uni" is directly from Latin while the word "code" is through French. The Indo-European would have been *oi-no-kau-do ("give one strike"): *kau apparently being related to such English words as: hew, haggle, hoe, hag, hay, hack, caudad, caudal, caudate, caudex, coda, codex, codicil, coward, incus, and Kovač (personal name: 'smith'). I will leave the exact derivations to the exegetes, but I like the association with "haggle" myself.

I will ask our resident phonetician about the IPA transcription. Clearly Standard British English would add some interesting -- and no doubt valuable -- complexities and nuances to the vowels, but that is not the goal in this case. Even "o" is often a diphthong in English, it is probably better to have [o:] as a target for matching from other languages, since [ou] may be considered slightly affected in the native language.

The stress is definitely on the first syllable. One does hear some normal generative English variations such as ˈjunəˌkoːd. (schwa instead of short-i), but the stress still should be on the first syllable, as in "unify", not later in the word as in "unique". Of course, the best approximation in the target language should be used: if it does not allow for that position for the stress (without affection), then the secondary stress should be used.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Marco Cimarosti" <>
To: "Unicode List" <>
Sent: Friday, January 12, 2001 03:11
Subject: Re: Transcriptions of "Unicode"

> Hallo everybody!
> I don't fully agree with Mark Davis' API transcription of "Unicode":
> IPA.gif
> Because:
> 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.
> 2) AFAIK, the phoneme [o:] (a long version of "o" in "got") does not exist
> in any standard pronunciation of contemporary English. It should rather be
> the diphthong [ou] (where the [u] would probably better be U+028A).
> 3) The transcription shows the primary stress on the first syllable, and a
> secondary stress on the last one. In the few occasions when I heard native
> English speakers saying "Unicode", I had the impression that it rather was
> the other way round.
> 4) As "Unicode" is the proper name of an international standard, and it is
> 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.
> Sorry if I am repeating something already said by other people: I have been
> off the list for a while. And, about points 2 and 3 above, beware that I am
> a second language English speaker and that I don't have much experience of
> American pronunciation.
> Ciao.
> Marco Cimarosti

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