stevek at SHORE.NET
Wed Aug 9 15:18:29 UTC 2000
My main problem with some of the eye-spelling approach to pronunciations
is that single characters are used to represent more than one
sound. Whereas you can use an i-macron and an i-breve to distinguish
between the i of like and the i of pit, in most eye-spelling systems you
have to rely on some type of convention -- usually a 'silent' e after a
consonant that follows a long vowel, or a doubling the consonant that
follows the short vowel.
What's worse, if a syllable is itself a word, sometimes you'll see 'nut'
represented as NUT but a syllable that's 'dut', since dut is not not a
word, you'll see represented as DUTT. There are certain words that become
incomprehensible when using some type of new system spelling. I've seen
'ice' represented as EYESS, for example.
What's worse, for the ESL market, representing vowel length by means of
following doubled consonants or silent e is not a wise choice when in so
many languages, final e is pronunced.
In one analysis I did of children's dictionaries, some use the same
pronunciation symbol in 2, sometimes 3 different ways. o-breve is
o-breve. Using 'o' to cover both o-breve and o-macron isn't helpful when
you're requiring other clues (doubled consonants, silent e) to be the item
that determines its length.
People may say they want keyless pronunciations, but people also told
McDonalds that they wanted lower-fat, vegetarian options, and when those
were trotted out, they failed miserably.
The phonemic systems employed by the American Big 4 work well for native
speakers of English. I agree that other systems are necessary for ESL
speakers, but the above concerns with regard to silent e and consonant
doubling should be taken into account. As far as general American
dictionaries are concerned, if it ain't broke, dont' fix it. It's simple
to grasp that i-breve is the i sound of pit, and once you've got that
down, you don't have to try to second guess the conventions of an eye-pron
--- Steve K.
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