Re: Character Identity and Font Selection

From: Julian Bradfield <>
Date: Sat, 11 Jun 2011 12:33:22 +0100

On 2011-06-11, Stephan Stiller <> wrote:
>> I remember getting Canepari's book when I was young; I thought then,
>> and think with much better confidence now, that it is geekery gone mad
>> - his level of detail is far beyond the ability of humans to agree on.
> Strongly disagree. Depends on your ear ... That this can't easily be

Yeah, right. Just like wine tasters. The accuracy is largely
self-delusion - controlled experiments show that wine professionals
can't reliably identify wines, or even reliably distinguish red from
All my LabPhon colleagues think that detailed transcription is bogus;
I've never seen any controlled experiments demonstrating reliable
transcription at fine levels. If you have any, I'd love to see them.
Some things are just not appropriate for discrete notation systems -
which is a blessing, since it means that Canepari's notation is never
likely to get enough uptake to get into Unicode!

>> Even with years of ear training, phonetic transcribers often don't agree at
>> the level of detail the IPA alone offers.
> But part of the reason is the fact that reference recordings of a few
> notable phoneticians have historically differed.

True. Cardinal [a] being particularly problematic!

>>> have argued that standard British practice of transcribing the vowel in
>>> "bet" as [e] is really outdated ([ɛ] is more appropriate). Linguist Ian
>> According to the Principles,<e> is the right letter for a phonemic
>> or broad phonetic transcription. However, I don't know where you get
>> the idea that<e> is the standard letter - the Oxford Dictionaries
>> use<ɛ>, and so do most of the other examples of English transcription
>> I recall seeing, even 30 years ago.
> Okay, seems like we have a factual disagreement. The following article
> should address this: Holger Schmitt, JIPA 37:3 (2007). I doubt everyone
> on this list in interested in the details, but, briefly, Schmitt
> described the current (somewhat messy) state of affairs and proposes to
> unify to the open e symbol.

Yes. What he says is that there is no standard practice - in his
survey of works, he finds a slight majority for <e>, but as he doesn't
list the works consulted, one can't see how he sampled. My personal
impression is for a majority of <ɛ> in phonetically oriented works,
but that's just an impression.

>> This is, in any case, influenced by your view on whether quality or quantity or both is the primary
>> differentiator between tense and lax vowels in English.
> Both. And the tense one is a diphthong (or "diphthongized", if you
> like). I guess it's a good example of how perception can differ ...

The tense are not always diphthongized. In much of northern England,
the FACE vowel is a pure [e:], and GOAT is [o:].

Since you mentioned Maddieson, I have an ambition of contributing to
Unicode: Maddieson was intrigued (at least at 3am after a night's
drinking) by my /r/ sound, and as far as I can see, there's no real
symbol for it, though I don't actually think it's an extremely unusual
British variant. Maybe one day I will propose a symbol for it!

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Received on Sat Jun 11 2011 - 06:36:58 CDT

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