Re: non-IPA primary/secondary stress marks?

From: Jukka K. Korpela (
Date: Tue Sep 26 2006 - 10:44:01 CST

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    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,
    > respectively.

    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 they say:
    "Although similar, the AHD and IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
    symbols are not precisely the same because they were conceived for
    different purposes."
    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,

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