[Ads-l] The spelling oh for long o [Re: Dictionary transcription (was RE: A book for (some of) us)]

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 7 20:03:56 EST 2021

Only tangentially related, but I recall reading that the use of “Oh” for a long “o” vowel in the Romanization of surnames started with a baseball player. I cannot find any definitive source for that, but Sadaharu Oh seems a likely source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadaharu_Oh <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadaharu_Oh>). It looks better than “Ou” or “O” (when that’s the only letter in the name) though English speakers will not pronounce it with the long pronunciation regardless of the spelling.

Sadaru Oh’s surname is 王, which is a well-known surname in English in the forms Wong4 from Cantonese and Wáng from Mandarin.

Possibly separately, the Korean name Oh also comes from 오 with various Chinese characters (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_(surname) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_(surname)>) and Wikipedia has a NYT citation from 1991 of one person who changed their name from O to Oh to avoid problems with computers incapable of handling one-letter surnames (https://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/28/us/why-o-why-doesn-t-that-name-compute.html <https://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/28/us/why-o-why-doesn-t-that-name-compute.html>).

Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
Formerly of Seatle, WA

> On 7 Jan 2021, at 16:10, Paul A Johnston <paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU> wrote:
> I know the Trager/Bloch system of transcription as one that was frequently used in my undergrad days at Michigan, at the time when Labov's seminal NYC study was written.  It was very popular among American phonologists, not phoneticians, but we got it at some point of our training.  But then I went to Edinburgh, with Roger Lass as one of my supervisors, to do a variationist project on the vowel system of the Scottish Borders and northern Northumberland, which I completed in 1979.  One of the things that was taught to me was to be as phonetically true as possible in my transcriptions, so I shifted to IPA.  The Trager/Bloch system does not work where I was working, and even in NY, even as a phonemicization, is divergent from the phonetics where it doesn't have to be, and has fostered a bit of misleading descriptions.  The vowel raising in NYC, or the Northern Cities shift for that matter, is not simple raising: otherwise you'd have bad=bed or Paul=pole.  Rather, it is raising of the first half and ingliding or downgliding diphthongization, turning the second half into a schwa or (in Nhb.) a lower vowel.  The solution i was given was to transcribe long vowels as a V1+ a V2, with diphthongs having different vowels here, and simple long vowels as identical ones, so [a:] can be represented as [aa].  No agenda about a 6 vowel system here--and I've used this system in all my work, at least as far as diphthongs are concerned, in my variationist and my historical studies on English and other Germanic vowel shifting.  The formation of ingliding or downgliding diphthongs from earlier long vowels is common historically, including in English dialects (mostly British ones) and I mostly had to deal with them that way.  I'm a little more tolerant of /Vy/ and /Vw/ transcriptions, and I will accept them from my students, though in my work, i'll usually use high lax vowel symbols.  You can even argue for them with some emphatic pronunciations ("NOwuh!" that my students might use.  I dfon't see any similar evidence for /Vh/, though.
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU>
> Sent: Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:10 PM
> Subject: Re: Dictionary transcription (was RE: A book for (some of) us)
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Dictionary transcription (was RE: A book for (some of) us)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I want to thank Ben for this very helpful
> guide, and for the pointer to the discussion
> of Labov (and consequently other variationist's)
> transcription systems.
> As a bit of background, Margaret Winters and I
> have a project looking at spontaneous folk phonetic
> transcriptions, and a surprising number of naive
> undergraduates are using the V+h notation to
> represent lax vowels. I've been wondering where
> they might have picked it up, since it's not
> much used in ordinary user's dictionaries.
> Parenthetically, my first linguistics class was an
> introduction to linguistics taught by Al Gleason
> (H.A.Gleason Jr.), and the Trager-Smith system
> was what I learned first as an undergraduate
> linguistics student. But 2018 Wayne State undergraduates
> almost certainly never picked it up that way.
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
> Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
> https://clasprofiles.wayne.edu/profile/an6993
> geoffnathan at wayne.edu
> From: Ben Zimmer<mailto:bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, January 7, 2021 3:04 PM
> Subject: Re: Dictionary transcription (was RE: A book for (some of) us)
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -------------------=
> ----
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Dictionary transcription (was RE: A book for (some of) us=
> )
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------=
> ----
> The Wikipedia page on "pronunciation respelling for English" has a
> comprehensive listing of phonetic spelling systems used by dictionaries and
> other references.
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pronunciation_respelling_for_English
> The <Vh> notation isn't common among dictionaries, but it often gets used
> in variationist sociolinguistics, following William Labov. Josef Fruehwald
> has a post on the development of the Labovian system on his blog:
> http://val-systems.blogspot.com/2018/07/why-does-labov-have-such-weird.html
> --bgz
> On Thu, Jan 7, 2021 at 8:31 AM Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at wayne.edu>
> wrote:
>> Can someone point me towards resources on the history of
>> American dictionary-style transcription systems.
>> This seems to be a rather difficult subject to investigate.
>> In particular, I'm interested in 'V+h' notations.

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