Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998 10:52:00 -0800


Subject: Re: Phonetic transcription--help

The 'vowel space' -- the empty area of the mouth in which the tongue

positions itself for vowel sounds -- allows for very fine gradations, and

this often makes it difficult to pin down a vowel. I have terrible

difficulty placing my students' mid-lo back rounded/unrounded vowel (an

'open o' for us East-Coasters); I'm convinced it's in between open o and


There is, however, a recognized symbol for a vowel between [ae] and [a];

it is not available on this font. It's the version of the letter a that

you usually see in print -- the one with the little curl over the little

balloon (very technical description, you see). Someone more savvy may

actually know the name of this letter.

In my experience studying languages and dialects, this vowel is often used

to transcribe the French /a/, and the /a/ that occurs in certain r-less

dialects, like those of Massachusetts, in words like 'park'. This may be

the vowel you want, or close enough anyway.

I don't have the reference handy, but there is a well-known set of tapes

with accompanying text materials for sounds of the world's languages.

Maybe someone else on the list knows of this. A lot of U. libraries carry

this, and it could help you identify strange-sounding vowels.


Johanna Rubba Assistant Professor, Linguistics ~

English Department, California Polytechnic State University ~

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 ~

Tel. (805)-756-2184 E-mail: jrubba[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] ~