RE: Bantu click letters

From: Peter Constable (
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 21:20:01 CDT

  • Next message: Peter Constable: "RE: Bantu click letters"

    > From: []
    > Behalf Of Michael Everson

    > Mark, come on. Doke's phonetic transcription of !Xung is a set of
    > explicit glyphs representing specific sounds, indeed more precisely
    > than IPA allows (I don't think IPA specifies a representation for
    > retroflex clicks).

    You've said that several times, as though having a bunch of distinct
    atomic symbols for close transcription were a good thing. Actually, the
    IPA is built on a principle of phonemic representation. I believe that
    atomic characters are never added for distinctions that are never
    phonemic. Where close allophonic transcription is desired, diacritics
    are used. So, for instance, the symbol for pre-palatal n wouldn't be
    added to IPA since there's no language that has a phonemic contrast
    between palatal nasal and pre-palatal nasal. If a linguist wants to
    indicate the forward position, 031F can be combined with 0272. If a
    linguist needs to explain *really* close details on consonants, then
    they resort to face diagrams (as Doke used in the samples you provided),
    palatographs, x-ray cinematographs or the like.

    This is not an argument against encoding these characters, though. It is
    simply pointing out that statements like "more precisely than IPA" do
    not constitute an argument in favour of encoding. The fact that after 80
    years there are no conventional symbols for pre-palatal nasals speaks to
    the value and necessity of having symbols with such precise meanings.

    Peter Constable

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Jun 10 2004 - 21:23:33 CDT