British Dialects Book

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Sep 21 15:11:49 UTC 2002

A phonemic transcription (or representation) is of a mental cognitive
fact. A phonetic transcription tries to capture an
acoustic/articulatory fact. "Prons" (a new technical term to me)
appears to be a not very helpful one which means anything written
which tries to capture either of these facts.
If I suggested that a phonetic or phonemic representation was itself
that which it represented, I apologize for that; I assure you I have
no such philosophical silliness in mind.


>         [dInIs, round 1 (note that these brackets don't indicate
>          phonetics!)]
>#>#>I don't understand what a phonemic (since it is a mental
>#>#>representation) pronunciation is. Nobody ever pronounced a phoneme.
>         [Mark's example omitted]
>         [dInIs 2]
>#Nope. I still don't grasp the concept of a phonemic pronunciation.
>#Your example shows us that some people have two phonemes - /O/ and
>#/a/ - represented by the phones [O] and [a]. Others have one phoneme
>#/a/ represented by the phone [a]. So far it looks like people are
>#"pronouncing" phonemes and that phones are gratuitous.
>Well, insofar as "pronunciation" refers to the articulatory and acoustic
>production of speech, the expression "phonemic pronunciation" is subject
>to your criticism. But I, and I think others in this list, have been
>using "pronunciation" here to refer to the graphical representation of
>the way(s) a word is pronounced. At Dragon Systems we called such
>representations "prons".
>Pronunciations in the first sense, which you seem to be using
>exclusively, *exist* in articulation and acoustics, and the only way to
>*present* them is to perform them, play a recording, display a sonogram
>or articulatory diagram, etc. In writing, they can only be
>Pronunciations in the second sense, or "prons", are symbolic entities
>whose existence is in ink on paper or phosphors on screens. They can be
>phonemic or phonetic. Being symbols, they are related to the things they
>represent only by way of the meaning they have in people's minds. The
>         [sOt]
>  is phonetic because we have agreed that the square brackets mean "this
>is a phonetic representation". The pron
>         /sOt/
>  is phonemic because we have agreed that slashes mean *that*.
>You say that nobody ever pronounced a phoneme. I could reply that nobody
>ever wrote a phone.
>-- Mark A. Mandel

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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