[Lexicog] Re: Reverse dictionary

Joseph Farquharson jtfarquharson at YAHOO.CO.UK
Sun Jan 22 10:14:25 UTC 2006

Just a point of clarification. I wasn't sure if what
was being referred by 'Jamaicans' is Kamaican English
or what is commonly referred to as Jamaican Creole.

The words 'bait' and 'boat' tend to be monophthongal
in Jamaican English i.e. /be:t and /bo:t/ while in
Jamaican Creole they are diphthongal /biet/ and


--- rtroike at email.arizona.edu wrote:


I think we all appreciate John Roberts' useful and
listing of various types of reverse dictionaries.
Thanks also to Prof.
Sobkowiak for the additional references and access to
his own remarkable
online pronunciation dictionary, which should be
enormously useful.
However, I'd like to recommend the use of the
Trager-Smith use of glides
with tense vowels, which is both more phonetically
accurate and facilitates
the indication of historical and regional differences.
Except for
Jamaicans, Scots, and Americans in the upper midwest
who are descended
from Scandinavian settlers, most English speakers do
not pronounce the
tense vowels as pure vowels, unlike other European
languages. Even the
British dictionaries recognize the diphthongal
pronunciation of the
vowels of "bait" and "boat". While the diphthongal
nature of the vowels
of "beet" and "boot" is not so obvious, the history of
both vowels may
be ascribed to their diphthongal origins, and current
variants, both
in British and American English, show the "drift" of
the first element
away from the idealized high front/back position.
Especially from a
comparative viewpoint with other languages, the
inclusion of the glide
with the tense vowels would be more informative and

        iy            uw
                                NB: From a purely
phonemic point of view
        I             U             there would be no
need to use I, U, E
                                    but the IPA
tradition of using the
       ey           @w/ow           letters i, e, o
for the higher vowels
                                    makes it
undesirable to confuse the
        E     @      Ow             picture as the
Trager-Smith system did.
                                    Also, since the
mid-central schwa and
       ae     a      O              the British
stressed vowel in "but" are
                                    in complementary
distribution, and this
          ay    aw                  vowel is
phonetically a schwa in most
             oy                     American English
(as in "above"), it is
                                    misleading in an
essentially phonemic
                                    representation to
write them differently.
                                    If they are, then
a different symbol is
                                    needed for the
unstressed variant of
                                    ever vowel, to be
British dictionaries recognize the vowel of "boat" as
/@w/ and the
pronunciation of /ay/ varies widely, from a
monophthong [a] in the US
South to [0y] in Australian Strine. It is a separate
question as to whether
it is misleading to speak of an "American English" as
anything parallel to
"British English", where there is an established
upper-class speech pattern
that is supraregional (though even that is changing,
as the Queen's
pronunciation shows).

Incidentally, the link for Joe Futrell's reverse
alphabetic dictionary
is no longer correct. I contacted him when I couldn't
find it and got
this reply:

For the moment the reverse alphabetized dictionary is

     Rudy Troike
     University of Arizona


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Joseph T. Farquharson, BA Hon. (UWI), M.Phil. (Cantab.) 
Department of Linguistics                                           
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, 
D-04103, Leipzig

tel ++49- (0) 341-3550-326
fax ++49- (0) 341-3550-333
e-mail: farquharson at eva.mpg.de
URL: http://www.eva.mpg.de/lingua/staff/farquharson/index.htm

Ph.D. candidate
Department of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy
University of the West Indies
Mona campus, Kingston 7

tel 1-876-970-2950
fax 1-876-970-2949
e-mail: joseph.farquharson at uwimona.edu.jm

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