OT: Is the IPA run by Internet Trolls?

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 17 2020 9:28 PM

Honestly looking for some feedback here.

If there is anything that causes me to question my sanity, it's the IPA and their various charts and sound clips that ostensibly present a phonemic template of universal sounds used in spoken language. I find what they present to the world as a "professionally curated" phoneme template is so divorced from my personal experience that I feel like any day (or any year) someone is finally going to hop out and say "April Fool's!"

Am I the only person who has this reaction to what they do? I'm particularly referencing the sound clips they have created, which sound as if they were produced by a slurring drunkard with a lisp, TBI (traumatic brain injury), and half-a-dozen marbles in his mouth. The most succinct description I can muster for this endeavor is "multiple organ failure". Thoughts? Input?

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 17 2020 10:06 PM

I find that the IPA accurately reflects articular phonetics in a way that permits one to learn to differentiate phonemes that are merged in one's own language. For example, the retroflex r of Tamil or the three t's (by position not breath) of Malayalam. It may sound strange because a native speaker usually overlays a series of fast speech rules that modify the pure phoneme (unless you are working in a language that reflects these fast speech rules such as Sanskrit) - think whad ya say vs. what did you say.

The IPA has 125 years of experience in which it has been tested by linguists recording new languages and speech therapists trying to teach articulation. If they sound odd to you, I would suspect that says more about the dialect around you than about the IPA itself. The IPA presents "the ideal articulation" ... in fact, a range of articulations and a swath of fudging for speed means that you hear a variety of articulations that you interpret as the "same" sound. You may be surrounded by a dialect in which you never actually hear the "ideal articulation". Take a short course/read a textbook in articulatory phonetics to get an appreciation for what you are hearing.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 2:20 AM

https://www.internationalphoneticassociation.org/IPAcharts/inter_chart_2018/IPA_2018.html

I encourage folks to click through this IPA chart and give your ears a spin. For more chuckles, listen to the clips on this Wikipedia page:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA

MJ. Smith:
The IPA has 125 years of experience in which it has been tested by linguists recording new languages and speech therapists trying to teach articulation. If they sound odd to you, I would suspect that says more about the dialect around you than about the IPA itself.

The dialect around me is 50 years of American television.

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 5:49 AM

David Paul:
Thoughts? Input?

IPA character set is the tool to write unwritten languages. After various stages, it can be the basis for the orthography. After that and the translation,  the Bible can be produced in that language.

For example https://heartlanguage.org/2018/02/01/ipa/ 

Gold package, and original language material and ancient text material, SIL and UBS books, discourse Hebrew OT and Greek NT. PC with Windows 8.1

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 7:17 AM

I think I have a pretty decent understanding of what the IPA is intended to be. I just question whether it actually is what it wants to be.

If anyone bothers to listen to the audio clips of the various sounds that are the bread and butter of the IPA's raison d'être, they will likely hear side-by-side clips that are supposedly the same phoneme, but which are significantly different from each other. At other times, the clips will be so garbled, or so drowned out with flat or droning intonation and superfluous phonemes that the clip most closely resembles sludge. I'm all in favor of the IPA's goal...I just would like someone to actually accomplish said goal. They haven't.

To be clear, regardless of how much written verbiage is assembled on this topic, regardless of how theoretically precise said verbiage is...it is the audio files that they provide which are the "Parisian meter bar" of this topic--and they are appalling.

I also feel they bungled the symbol allocation. That's not as critical an issue, since symbol assignment is theoretically random, but there are historical precedents, obviously, that nevertheless affect perception on this issue.

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Joseph Sollenberger | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 8:12 AM

In the early 1960's I needed to take formal speech therapy provided by a credentialed speech therapist. As I listen to the IPA clips, I am transported back to those sessions in elementary school and the hours of weekly exercises. The first part of the exercise was to always isolate the phoneme to practice and listen to the therapist pronounce it slowly and in a very exaggerated manner. I would say a series of sounds, of which many were truly amusing, and slowly work towards a target sound not unlike those referenced in the linked IPA charts. Until I had listened to the sample sound files, I had not thought about the exercises that practiced the sound of the phoneme within a range of acceptable speaking styles. I was raised in an area of northern Appalachia with a very distinct speech pattern of phrases, words, and pronunciation. There are still a few vowel phonemes I am able to produce only with considerable focus and effort when I place myself back in speech therapy mode. In normal speech, I simply don't use them, and those with understanding will know the geographical area in which I spent my childhood years. My students always found this amusing and enjoyed my moments of chagrin. Hint: I pronounce Bill, eel, wheal, wheel, sill, seal, pill, and peal with exactly the same vowel sound—you may try to guess which sound I use. Well, speech therapy took me as far as was possible until dental braces became a part of my life during high school, and a reshaped mouth allowed better speech, though I never got that vowel issue worked out.

David, the IPA system is very real, and was a critical tool in my speech therapy. I think the biggest disconnect with the sample phoneme sounds is the speed, and legitimate variations within the pronunciations of the same phoneme. It is not unlike pronunciations of Greek or Hebrew words in classroom audio resources compared to the sound of the same word by a different readers at normal speaking speed. Language is complex! ;)

Shalom,

Joseph

Joseph F. Sollenberger, Jr.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 9:32 AM

Joseph Sollenberger:
I think the biggest disconnect with the sample phoneme sounds is the speed, and legitimate variations within the pronunciations of the same phoneme.

I will confess to being in the "disconnect" category, since my entire concept of what phonemes are is that they are specific and unique sounds that are unlike all other spoken language sounds. If there are "legitimate variations", how can they possibly be phonemes???

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Joseph Sollenberger | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 9:52 AM

All measurement involves variability and uncertainty (think precision and accuracy issues in quantitative measurements). These issues become even more complex in qualitative measurement. IPA methods attempt to catalog and systematize the observed, not create the whole issue of language top down. It is inductive rather than deductive. As with all inductive systems, it is only as useful as it is able to systematize the known and extend insight, usefulness, and predictions into new areas of language. Oh, and it will be modified as needed simply because it is above all, a pragmatic system. It is not akin to the old MKS standards of physics. Even those physical standards have been replaced by standards the do not depend on a material object, but rather depend on fundamental properties of the universe. Inductive logic is vastly different that the deductive logic so commonly emphasized in our current society.

Shalom,

Joseph

Joseph F. Sollenberger, Jr.

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Phil Quigley | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 18 2020 10:03 AM

I have some basic linguistic knowledge, I took a semester of classes at GIAL in Dallas. One of the classes I took in my time there was the Phonetics class. One of the things that was stressed to us was the idea of the -etic and the -emic. The -etic refers to the viewpoint of the outsider and the -emic refers to the viewpoint of the insider. The IPA strives to represent the phonetic value. That means they are describing all the possible sounds that can be made using the human voice. The job of the linguist studying a language is to determine which sounds affect meaning and those would be the phonemes. Those phonemes may have different phonetic values depending on the surrounding phonetic values. An example of this in English would be the in- prefix. It can have the phonetic value of in- or im- depending on the following letter. In front of dentals and velars, it would sound like an in- (i.e. incredible). In front of labials, it sounds like im- (i.e. impossible). So, phonetically they are different; however, phonemically they are the same. Don't know if that helps.

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