Date: Thu, 24 Feb 1994 10:38:57 -0500

From: "William A. Kretzschmar, Jr." billk[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ATLAS.UGA.EDU

Subject: Re: Phonetic/Phonemic E-Mail Alphabet

Here's a long answer to a simple question.

There is no standard yet, but the idea being floated by the Association

for Computing in the Humanities, for phonetic symbols and many other

things besides, is SGML, short for Standard Generalized Markup Language.

SGML encoded texts not only mark special symbols and diacritics, but also

different font choices, beginnings and ends of documents and document

subunits (paragraphs, but also other units). Symbols, or characters with

diacritics, are known as "entities". They are put into a text using only

the regular alphanumeric characters (roughly those on the keyboard, that

always show up in e-mail) plus an "opener delimiter" and a "closer

delimiter". Thus, an e with an acute accent would be represented as


where the ampersand is the opener and the semicolon is the closer (it is

permissible to omit the closer before a space or punctuation mark). There

is a whole list of names for IPA symbols that was prepared as part of the

TEI (text encoding initiative). In practice, people often use the opener

and a short description of their own devising, such as &aesc for the

digraph found in Old English, or &barsmallcapI for the most frequent sound

in American English, or &hookedn for the velar nasal phoneme.

Personally I am not in favor of SGML or TEI. Their net effect is greatly

to increase file size wherever there are many "entities" in use. They

seem offer complex coding systems that require "filter" software before

anyone can reasonably be expected to read a text so prepared---this when

the real problem is the ancient limitation in transmission standards to

7-bit units, which makes the keyboard alphanumerics all that can be

transmitted. An alternative is something like UNICODE, a replacement for

ASCII, which removes the 7-bit limitation, but would also require hardware

updates. I understand that IBM and most of the other big companies have

signed on to UNICODE for the eventual standard.

As a short term solution for light use of special symbols, as on e-mail,

use of ampersand plus description seems a reasonable practice.


Bill Kretzschmar Phone: 706-542-2246

Dept. of English FAX: 706-542-2181

University of Georgia Internet: billk[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Athens, GA 30602-6205 Bitnet: wakjengl[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uga