From: Jukka K. Korpela (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Sep 26 2006 - 10:44:01 CST
On Tue, 26 Sep 2006, Steve Summit wrote:
> I know that the IPA characters for indicating primary and
> secondary stress in punctuations are U+02C8 Modifier Letter
> Vertical Line and U+02CC Modifier Letter Low Vertical Line,
Yes, but IPA is just one of many phonetic notations, and other notations
use different ways to express stress.
> But some U.S dictionaries (for example, the
> American Heritage) represent primary and secondary stress using
> heavy and light prime marks.
The American Heritage Dictionary seems to have its own phonetic notation,
which they call "AHD". At http://www.bartleby.com/61/12.html they say:
"Although similar, the AHD and IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
symbols are not precisely the same because they were conceived for
In fact, they are quite different. They are both phonetic notations that
use Latin letters as the basis and add other symbols, but otherwise they
don't have much in common. So it is no wonder that they have different
notations for stress. Note that in IPA, a stress mark precedes the
stressed syllable, whereas in AHD, a stress mark follows the stressed
> It only just now occurred to me
> that there's no well-defined way to represent those in "pure"
> Unicode, i.e. without resorting to some sort of higher-level
> typographic markup to specify the glyphs.
The online version of the American Heritage Dictionary seems to use small
images for many phonetic symbols it uses, including the stress mark. It
doesn't even contain alt="..." attributes for them. From the names of the
image files, prime.gif and lprime.gif, we might guess that the symbols are
meant to be the PRIME character in bold font and the PRIME character in
normal font. (The idea that the former would be PRIME and the latter would
be PRIME in a font with a less than normal font weight, or "light PRIME",
is probably too far-fetched. I would guess that the "l" in "lprime" stands
for "light" in the meaning "not bold".)
On the other hand, to my eye, the images look like a bold APOSTROPHE
(Ascii apostrophe) and a normal APOSTROPHE, though the form has a slightly
slanted glyph, which is not that uncommon. Making the difference by
bolding only does not sound like a good strategy, but it's possible. (Some
phonetic notations using bolding for the stressed syllable instead of any
stress marks. Such notation cannot of course be written using plain text
If I were asked to write AHD notations using plain text, I would probably
use PRIME for the main stress and APOSTROPHE for the secondary stress.
At least this would make a difference, and the shape of PRIME, though too
slanted, would correspond to the slight slanting. The solution is far from
ideal; actually, in many fonts, APOSTROPHE looks bolder than PRIME.
-- Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
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