Q: transcription symbol for unaspirated

Alexandre Arkhipov (by way of Geoffrey Haig <haig@linguistik.uni-kiel.de>) arxipov at PHILOL.MSU.RU
Fri Apr 4 08:14:43 UTC 2008

Dear Alexandre,

Northern or Kurmanji Kurdish has quite a similar system, with aspirated 
voiceless stops contrasting with unaspirated voiceless stops.  For most of 
the stops, the aspirated sounds are the more frequent, making it more 
convenient to mark the unaspirated ones. However, this is generally not 
been done in descriptive practice, which often marks the aspirated stops, 
with various diacritics, or ignores the distinction completely (it has a 
very marginal functional load in the language).

However, in one recent Kurdish dictionary (Rizgar´s Kurdish-English 
dictionary), the author introduced the innovation of marking the 
unaspirated sounds via underlining the letters concerned. This move wasn´t 
very popular, and has caused quite a lot of confusion. However, from a 
purely linguistic standpoint it is quite sensible. You might want to 
consider that a precedent for your system,

best wishes


Dear colleagues,

Does any of you know of an appropriate transcription symbol for 
*un*aspirated consonants?

-- We are trying to find some (quasi) standard symbol to mark the 
unaspirated in (some of) the Nakh-Daghestanian languages, where the 
aspirated stops and affricates are the unmarked option and very frequent; 
on the contrary, the unaspirated are marked and rare. So we'd like to put 
no additional symbol for aspiration, marking the unaspirated instead.

-- This is for a transcription system that is an adaptation of the IPA to 
the tradition of Daghestanian studies, it is not strictly IPA (the IPA 
transcription will be provided separately). We don't want to invent 
something ad hoc but for the moment we don't see any widely used symbol 
that would fit.

-- The IPA charts (including 2005 revised version) only have a symbol for 
the aspirated -- a superscript small h.

-- The Unicode standard lists a character "modifier letter unaspirated" 
(U+02ED) which seems to be a superscript equals sign, but we've never seen 
it used anywhere -- are any of you familiar with it?

-- The best option for us, typographically, would be a symbol placed either 
below the main character or to the right of it. We are thinking of, for 
example, a minus or equals sign below, or of the famous triangular colon 
(which could, though, be somewhat misleading).

We will be grateful for any suggestions and comments.
Best regards,

Alexandre Arkhipov,
OTiPL at Moscow State University

(Cross-posted to LinguistList)
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