Re: IPA Null Consonant

From: Thomas M. Widmann (
Date: Mon May 26 2003 - 17:44:23 EDT

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: Dutch IJ, again" writes:

    > [...]
    > Thomas M. Widmann wrote on 05/26/2003 06:01:39 AM:
    > [...]
    > > > I agree the EMPTY SET symbol is the right character to use. It
    > > > has the right semantics, and in most fonts it will look
    > > > sufficiently different from the IPA vowel symbol O WITH STROKE.
    > >
    > > The only alternative I can think of would be U+0030 DIGIT ZERO, but
    > > that would look wrong in most fonts.
    > EMPTY SET is probably the better choice for that reason.

    But the question is whether it is the right one nevertheless.

    As Pullum writes in his "Phonetic Symbol Guide":

       Null Sign

       This has has no phonetic value, [...]
       Dinnsen (1974, 43) uses the slightly different null set symbol <∅>
       as the notation for a phonological segment "specified minus for all
       features" [...]

    I cannot represent the graphical page here, but his NULL SIGN is quite
    slender, very much like a zero with a stroke, while the null set
    symbol seems to be just as wide as it is tall, just as the EMPTY SET
    symbol shown in the Unicode book.

    I tend to agree with him that the normal visual representation of this
    character in linguistics is different -- for instance, it was quite
    slender in all the books I quoted earlier.

    > > If U+2205 EMPTY SET is indeed the right character, it might be an
    > > idea to give it an extra name (LINGUISTIC NULL or LINGUISTIC
    > > ZERO), since its meaning is of course not "empty set" but rather
    > > "empty element".
    > An annotation about could be added, though I probably wouldn't
    > suggest an alias: it isn't commonly known as "linguistic null" or
    > "linguistic zero".

    Yes, I think you're right that an annotation is best -- but only if
    EMPTY SET is indeed the right character. I'm increasingly of the
    opinion that a different character might be needed.

    > If you want to see an annotation, you could make such a request to
    > UTC.

    Yes. Or I could suggest a new character, I guess.


    Thomas Widmann, MA          member of the steering group for europa.*
           Mavisbank Gardens, Glasgow, Scotland, EU   

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