Re: IPA Null Consonant

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Mon May 26 2003 - 19:45:53 EDT

  • Next message: Doug Ewell: "Re: IPA Null Consonant"

    From: "Thomas M. Widmann" <>
    > 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.

    Could there be a confusion between a ZERO character with a COMBINING STROKE, and a LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH STROKE (or its canonical decomposition), which seems to be used or easily confused with LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH STROKE (or its canonical decomposition) also used for phonetics in some dictionnaries to designate a vowel sound ?

    For me the only symbols that clearly would be non ambiguous as meaning empty is an empty pair () of parentheses, possibly with a thin space in the middle. As this has no phonetic value but a phonological value, this is a notation/markup out of the IPA, to include such phonological semantic.

    As there could be many other phonological semantics that may need their own symbols, I think it's more appropriate to think about it more globally, and use this type of markup symbol to escape the notation from the normal IPA sequence. The same thing would be true for the symbols used for morphological, grammatical and semantic analysis of text (which sometimes is rendered using a ruby notation, or additional geometric layouts, borders, colors, highlites, font styles, arrows, ... or even graphs).

    The more I think about it, the less I think what you want is similar to the notation for true phonemes that may or may not pronounced, depending on the surrounding phonetic context.

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