Phonetic orthographies

Gerard Meijssen gerardm at
Sat Nov 25 11:47:09 CET 2006

Randy Presuhn schreef:
> Hi -
>> From: "Gerard Meijssen" <gerardm at>
>> To: "Peter Constable" <petercon at>
>> Cc: <ietf-languages at>
>> Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006 11:19 AM
>> Subject: Re: Phonetic orthographies
> ...
>> I am also convinced that persons who speak English to any degree have no 
>> use whatever for phonetic transcriptions of English. An IPA 
>> transcription would be useless anyway if all the Meta data indicates is 
>> that it is English or British / American.. such a Standards compliant 
>> distinction does imho not significantly identify it for a linguist to be 
>> truly useful.
> ...
> This is contrary to my experience as a native speaker of English.
> Many speakers of English have a larger vocabulary for reading
> than for speaking.  If I decide I want to start using one
> of those words in conversation, I need to look it up in a
> dictionary and use its transcription to figure out how
> to pronounce it.
> Randy
When I get an American dictionary, I expect that the transcription is 
for an American pronunciation. For an English dictionary, I expect an 
English pronunciation. An indication of en-IPA or whatever just does not 
cut it. It is not precise.

The transcription of native speakers of English, allows for a very wide 
bandwidth of pronunciations, so wide that people from outside Britain 
have a hard time understanding things even when they are native speakers 
of English too. Correct tagging implies that it is precise. You can say; 
en-US-IPA (for instance) is the /preferred pronunciation/ and have more 
precise indication of locales or dialects to indicate it otherwise. This 
is in my understanding the only way in which you can use it at all.

The next problem is, that phonetic transcriptions are in general 
unreadable to the general audience and many transcriptions assume that a 
Latin character is pronounced in THEIR way. The consequence is that many 
such transcription are of limited use; they are unusable for people who 
do not know these assumptions. They are next to impossible for people 
with a different mother tongue. Finally the biggest majority of the 
people (98%+) have not been schooled to read phonetic transcriptions in 
the first place and to them they are useless.

This realisation that the combination of a language with only the 
language indication is not enough had me stop the addition of any 
phonetic transcriptions for now until a later moment in WiktionaryZ. We 
FIRST have to be able to indicate locales before we can have phonetic 
transcriptions in .


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