CSD 232 Home

Overcoming Slavery to Orthography

Introduction: We spend decades of our lives learning how to spell utterances in the English language, and yet no one ever fully masters this system.  Even sophisticated university professors still have to look up the spelling of words. Often, we judge an individual's intelligence on the basis of the way that person spells words and uses punctuation. Phonetic transcription is a kind of spelling, but it differs from English orthography in a number of important ways.  To transcribe utterances properly into the International Phonetic Alphabet, we must be careful not to apply some of the rules and sound-symbol associations that we have devoted so many years of our lives to learn.

Here are some of the pitfalls that beginning phoneticisers may encounter.

1. Using capital (upper-case) letters for proper nouns and for words at the beginning of a sentence.
     e.g.: "Bobby", "Carol", "The school bell rang."
2. Mistaking the sounds of diphthongs for the sounds in similarly spelled words.
     e.g.: "house", "daisy"
3.  Using the letter "c" when the sound [s] or the sound [k]  is indicated.
     e.g. "circus", "cat"
4. Using punctuation, such as commas and periods, just because they were in the orthographic representation. [Note that IPA does have junctures for certain pauses and intonation patterns associated with orthographic punctuation.]
     e.g. "don't", "Come here, Sam!"
5. Using  IPA vowel symbols inappropriately just because they look like the corresponding orthographic vowel letters.
6. Using a pair of identical IPA consonants just because a double letter is used in the spelling, though only a single consonant sound is used in the actual phonetic utterance.
     "pillow", "common"