Re: gamma as a phonetic symbol

From: Julian Bradfield (
Date: Sat Sep 27 2008 - 14:40:14 CDT

  • Next message: Julian Bradfield: "Re: gamma as a phonetic symbol"

    In article <6BD4B2DD058D490E884F4A15012F9F78@JukanPC> "Jukka K. Korpela" <> writes:
    >Julian Bradfield wrote:
    >> Can anybody shed light for me on why Unicode includes
    >> in the IPA Extensions block, but does not include special IPA versions
    >> of chi, phi, theta, which are no less typographically distinct from
    >> their Greek counterparts?
    >Looking at
    >I would say that chi and theta are rather typical appearances of Greek

    Hm. Yes. The rendering of chi has changed since I first acquired the
    IPA Handbook. In the 1970s version, the chi is much more romanized,
    with serifs on the straight stroke. (I remember writing to the IPA to
    complain about its typographical ugliness!)

    >letters. The phi is different, but to my eye, it's pretty normal _capital_

    Oh, surely not. The vertical stroke is both an ascender and a
    descender, whereas every capital Phi I've seen sits between the
    baseline and the cap-height. The only difference between IPA phi and
    some forms of Greek lower-case phi is the serifs.

    > The "LATIN SMALL LETTER GAMMA" (voiced velar fricative), U+0263, is
    >different from any rendering of the Greek letter gamma I've seen.
    >These are of course a matter of judgment, but I would expect that most
    >people familiar with Greek letters (as used in modern writing) would see the
    >situation as the Unicode standard sees them: some IPA symbols are actually
    >Greek letters used in a special meaning, whereas the symbol for the voiced
    >velar fricative is of its own kind - perhaps somewhat _similar_ to the
    >gamma, but it is not intuitively evident that it is even based on the gamma.

    Depends on your intuition. If you hand-write Greek in a mathematical
    context, your hand-written symbol probably has an obvious loop at the
    bottom, rather than the carefully non-looped construction of a printed
    gamma. What makes the IPA gamma look artificial is (a) the serifs at the top,
    (b) the straightness of the upper portion of the letter, rather
    than being a naturally flowed line. To my eyes, these are the same
    effects seen in the phi and beta.
    Of course it is in fact based on gamma (for the simple reason that
    that is the sound of gamma in Modern Greek); historically, people used
    a normal Greek gamma before the IPA came up with this romanized

    >Calling it LATIN SMALL LETTER GAMMA is perhaps the most artificial part of
    >the solution. Well, maybe it is even more artificial that it has a mapping
    >to uppercase. After all, it is in the IPA Extensions block, IPA usage is the
    >only usage mentioned, and IPA is essentially caseless (though it includes
    >characters that are lowercase or uppercase letters in usage outside the

    There's a comment in the LATIN CAPITAL LETTER GAMMA saying that it's
    "African", and latin gamma was proposed in the 30s as a letter to be
    using in designing orthographies for African languages, but I can't
    find off-hand a reference to a language that currently uses it.

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