Phonemic vs phonetic trasncription

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Bob Cunningham:
A recent discussion of phonemic vs phonetic transcription brings to mind earlier discussions of broad-phonetic vs narrow-phonetic transcription.

There has been at least one denial that "broad phonetic" is a valid term, but there is a thread of 29 articles starting with one by Neil Coffey in Message-ID: (Email Removed) under the subject line "Re: broad-phonetic vs narrow-phonetic transcription".

(I'm using here the definition of "thread" that Google Groups implies by saying that the 29-article "thread" starts with a subject line that begins with "Re:".)

Avi Jacobson, posting to sci.lang in Message-ID: , seems to use "broad phonetic" as a valid term, and he also uses the interesting term "quasi-phonemic".

It seems to me that in defending the use of phonemic transcription to describe how words are pronounced, some of the posters could better have said "broad phonetic" and accordingly have used square brackets. Maybe they could have said "quasi-phonemic", but that seems unnecessarily cumbersome if "broad phonetic" amounts to the same thing. (Note that "quasi-" is equivalent to "not really".)

The distinction between describing the pronunciations of words with more or less specificity shouldn't be made by saying "phonemic" or "phonetic". It should be made by saying "broad phonetic" or "narrow phonetic".

The important distinction is whether you're discussing the pronunciation per se of words or you're specifically dealing with linguistic concepts like contrastive distribution and free variation.
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Des Small:
"Broad phonetic transcription" is widely used in the phonetics literature, particularly associated with the British school of Daniel Jones. If anyone is looking for an argument about that I'm certainly available.

If we define phonemes as the minimal phonetic elements involved in signification, then a phonemic transcription implies that a complete survey has been done for a language. "Broad phonetic" transcription doesn't imply such a strong claim.
[nq:1]It seems to me that in defending the use of phonemic transcription to describe how words are pronounced, some of the posters could better have said "broad phonetic" and accordingly have used square brackets.[/nq]
When talking about pronunciation, this is what I generally do, largely because I don't claim to have a phonemic analysis of British English. But sometimes one is talking about the (phonetic) realisation of (morpho-)phonemes, such as Peter's remark that some Chicagoans distinguish /D/ from /d/ by making the former dental and the latter alveolar. The phonemic representation in such a statement is serving as an alternative to the orthographic level - it wouldn't be hard to make it a statement about (when voiced), but it isn't a statement about (D).
[nq:1]Maybe they could have said "quasi-phonemic", but that seems unnecessarily cumbersome if "broad phonetic" amounts to the same thing. (Note ... discussing the pronunciation per se of words or you're specifically dealing with linguistic concepts like contrastive distribution and free variation.[/nq]
And words. Having a representation between (even broad) phonetic and the official orthography can be quite useful. This is some of why phonemic descriptions are still used even though nobody really believes in phonemes anymore.
Des
favours the Jakobsonian feature bundle approach, of course.
Des Small / Scientific Programmer/ School of Mathematics / University of Bristol / UK / Word falling / Image falling
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Bob Cunningham:
[nq:1]Peter's remark that some Chicagoans distinguish /D/ from /d/ by making the former dental and the latter alveolar.[/nq]
Doesn't everyone pronounce (D) and (d) those ways? And aren't /D/ and /d/ in contrastive distribution for everyone?

Are there any English words, with the exception of words from dead-end-kid dialects, whose meanings are not changed by substituting /D/ for /d/?
In the summer of 1934 I lived with a family that was headed by an immigrant from Friesland. He liked to call himself a "dumb Dutchman".
One day he told me that a dumb dutchman couldn't make "th" sounds because a dutchman's mouth wasn't built right to make those sounds. I experimented in private and told him the next morning at breakfast time that all he had to do was stick his tongue between his teeth and blow.
Unfortunately he did it when his mouth was full, so he sprayed oatmeal on the table. He may have never tried it again, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had solved the problem in principle. I didn't know it at the time, but it was my first experience with articulatory phonetics.
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R H Draney:
[nq:1]Are there any English words, with the exception of words from dead-end-kid dialects, whose meanings are not changed by substituting /D/ for /d/?[/nq]
There's an Abbot and Costello routine, not as well-known as "Who's On First?", involving a racehorse...Bud's use of "mudder" (a horse that runs well on a muddy track) and "fodder" are misread by Lou as references to the horse's parents..."your mudder's a 'he', and *he* eats his fodder?!"...
[nq:1]One day he told me that a dumb dutchman couldn't make "th" sounds because a dutchman's mouth wasn't built right ... the problem in principle. I didn't know it at the time, but it was my first experience with articulatory phonetics.[/nq]
If they ever make a movie about phoneticists, this scene needs to be included..r
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Peter T. Daniels:
[nq:2]Peter's remark that some Chicagoans distinguish /D/ from /d/ by making the former dental and the latter alveolar.[/nq]
[nq:1]Doesn't everyone pronounce (D) and (d) those ways? And aren't /D/ and /d/ in contrastive distribution for everyone?[/nq]
Des didn't reproduce the entire description (or, as you would put it, Des lied about what I said). In some Chicago dialects, /D/ is realized as a dental stop, and /d/ as an alveolar stop. This is contrary to the realizations in standard varieties of English, which have an interdental fricative and an alveolar stop respectively.
[nq:1]Are there any English words, with the exception of words from dead-end-kid dialects, whose meanings are not changed by substituting /D/ for /d/?[/nq]
Even for "dead end kids," which is perhaps a way of referring to certain speechways of Manhattan's pre-WWII Lower East Side, the distinction between /D/ and /d/ is phonemic. The actors in the Dead End Kids movies (beginning with Angels with Dirty Faces, one of the all-time great gangster movies) may not have made all the distinctions made by native speakers, but the native speakers did. I made the mistake of buying the DVD of Gangs of New York, but among all the extras there may be a presentation by the dialect coach, who I gathered from a radio interview did a very good job of reconstructing the speech patterns of the era and even of getting the actors to use them.
[nq:1]In the summer of 1934 I lived with a family that was headed by an immigrant from Friesland. He liked ... the problem in principle. I didn't know it at the time, but it was my first experience with articulatory phonetics.[/nq]
Perhaps you could go to Japan and explain to whichever racist phoneticians remain there that the Japanese vocal tract is not incapable of the l ~ r distinction (a pre-War teaching, which has not yet entirely vanished from what Japanese people "know" about their language).
Peter T. Daniels (Email Removed)
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