Re: Pronunciation symbols

On Sun, 25 Nov 2007 23:51:28 +1100, Peter Moylan
<peter@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> said:

On 25/11/07 06:24, Bob Cunningham wrote:

Most people should be familiar and comfortable with the pronunciation
symbols that have been used traditionally in standard dictionaries
like _Merriam-Webster's Collegiate_s.

For American values of "most".

But see my remarks about the _Chambers Dictionary_ upthread.

One problem I have with this proposal is
that M-W uses a notation that is quite different from that in the
dictionaries I'm used to using, and I'd be reluctant to have to keep
checking the symbols in a dictionary I don't own.

My symbol table doesn't ask you to look at the _Collegiate_.
It's self-contained. My mention of the relationship to the
_Collegiate_symbols is only a matter of helpful mnemonics
for those who are familiar with the _Collegiate_ or
_Chambers 93_. Others can use the symbols as defined
without even thinking about the _Collegiate_.

I would, for example,
be completely lost in knowing how to explain the cot/caught/caht
distinction using the M-W notation.

That depends on what pronunciations of those words you want
to discuss. In my idiolect they are pronounced \ka:t\,
\ka:t\, and \ka:t\. That is, they all have the same vowel.

A UK speaker would probably explain them with \ko^t\,
\ko.t\, and \ca:t\, where the vowel symbols are in direct
correspondence with M-W notation.

I've never quite understood why American dictionaries had
to invent a new notation when IPA was already available.

From a history of the International Phonetic Alphabet at :

The first official version of the alphabet appears
in Passy (1888).

I'm not sure when G. & C. Merriam Company first used symbols
like the ones in the dictionaries of their current avatar,
Merriam-Webster, but I wouldn't be surprised to find it was
before or near 1888. All I can say for sure is that their
_New International_ (the first edition of the unabridged),
which was first copyright 1909 and which I have a copy of
right here, has a pronunciation-symbol table that is not
identical to those in current Merriam-Webster dictionaries
but is clearly intimately related to them.

The symbols have changed quite a bit through the years, but
so has IPA.

Incidentally, in a similar vein, I once had an e-mail
exchange with one of the eminent figures in the IPA world
(something Wells?) in which he expressed wonder that
somebody had bothered to devise Kirshenbaum ASCII IPA when
SAMPA was already available.