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Academic Paper


Title: Response to W. J. Barry & J. Trouvain, Do We Need a Symbol for a Central Open Vowel? JIPA 38 (2008), 349–357.
Author: Daniel Recasens
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Linguistic Field: Discipline of Linguistics; Phonetics
Abstract: In the paper ‘Do we need a symbol for a central open vowel?’, William Barry and Jürgen Trouvain unveil possible gaps in the IPA chart while positing the need for having three basic phonetic symbols for transcribing open vowels of the world's languages. The main point raised by the authors is that the phonetic quality of a in languages with a single open vowel is somewhere in between that of the open front and back vowels in more complex vowel systems. They exemplify this point by referring to the open vowel of the Spanish word gata, which is usually transcribed with the symbol [a] in spite of being more central than Cardinal Vowel 4. Several possible solutions are proposed: adding small capital A or barred a for the open central vowel to the already existing symbols [a] and [ɑ]; keeping [ɑ] for the open back vowel, moving the symbol [a] to the open central vowel position, and having either [æ] or small capital A as symbols for the open front vowel. As argued below, I do not believe that three IPA phonetic symbols are really needed for the transcription of different variants of a.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Journal of the International Phonetic Association Vol. 39, Issue 2, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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