Re: Greek characters in IPA usage

From: Julian Bradfield (
Date: Mon Aug 17 2009 - 16:45:10 CDT

  • Next message: Michael Everson: "Re: Greek characters in IPA usage"

    On 2009-08-17, Andreas Stötzner <> wrote:
    > I found the elaborate contributions from Asmus Freytag, Michael Everson
    > and Julian Bradfield most valuable. I wished the phoneticians and
    > IPAists would take notice of the amount of trouble we embark on here to
    > do *their* business …

    Both Michael and I are IPAists (i.e. long-standing members of the
    IPA), and I am at times a phonetician, so they're not completely

    > It’s a systemic issue: are phonetic β, θ and χ the same characters as
    > the Greek β, θ and χ?

    I think that's common ground.

    > I think, beyond glyph shaping details, it all comes down to this simple
    > question.

    I rather thought the whole discussion had been about this "simple"
    The problem is almost exactly analogous to the linguistic problems of
    what is a phone. Phonemes are not without their problems, but by and
    large we know what they are *within one language* (for some
    sufficiently narrow definition of language). But there is no good way to
    classify sounds abstractly across languages, any more than there is a
    good way to decide whether IPA beta is the same as Greek beta.
    Is a French /t/ the same as an English /t/? They're rather different
    auditorily, especially initially, but nonetheless you can get by in
    either language with the wrong sound, especially once the listener is
    used to it.
    Linguistics knows perfectly well that the problem is insoluble - but
    linguistics doesn't *have* to make a catalogue of all "The Sounds of
    the World's Languages" (a book by Peter Ladefoged and Ian Maddieson
    which tries to do just that) - Unicode does have to make a catalogue
    of the world's characters!

    So if you could solve this simple problem, you would probably be a
    hero in linguistics too!

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