Date: Wed, 28 Jan 1998 20:45:43 -0500

From: Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]VAX.VMI.EDU

Subject: Re: Phonetic transcription--help

I think, as has been suggested, that the [a] now on the Pyles/Algeo flyleaf

(the 1989 revision of the IPA) is pretty much this sound between [ae] and

script-a, but I kind of like Edwin Duncan's use of a superscript schwa.

It's interesting to a none linguist to find such matters still in flux, and

I know my students are going to love reading these posts, especially the

picture of Mary with her fingers in her mouth. Thanks. This has been very


Alan B.

At 05:51 PM 1/28/98 CST, Breland, Mary wrote:

The vowel Alan Baragona described sounds to me like one I have in my

phonological system as a result of growing up in Mississippi. In my

family, we referred to it as "flat-I" and used it as a shibboleth to

distinguish between TV characters who were "real Southerners" and those who

were "fake ." When I was learning IPA transcription (using a book by Pyles

and Algeo) I was quite frustrated by the absence of a symbol to represent

the sound I produced. I have both the diphthong [ai] and "flat-I" in my

speech. The diphthong occurs before voiceless consonants in words such as

"light" [lait], "wife" [waif], "rice" [rais], etc.; flat-I occurs before

voiced consonants and in open syllables "lied," "hive," "rise," etc. I

couldn't figure out a way to represent both sounds in transcribing my own

speech. The closest representation I could come up with was [a:] to

represent a lengthened monophthong, but I was not happy with it because it

seemed to indicate something lower and farther back than what I believed I

produced. I spent a good bit of time with my fingers in my mouth trying to

find out what was going on in there. I decided, finally, that we had come

up with the name "flat-I" because the tongue is held still and "flat,"

almost level or straight rather than raised or lowered very much like the

mid-central lax vowel "uh" represented by a schwa but the mouth is more open

than for "uh. " But there's more to it than tongue position; the lips are

involved, also. The corners of the mouth, particularly the lower lip, are

tensed and pulled out to the sides and slightly up as for [ae] and [i]. I

finally settled on using an "upside-down a" to represent an open mid-central

spread vowel.