British English in strict IPA transcription
The following is a reproduction of an article which first appeared in Vol 9, no.2
of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association in December 1979
/ðes god wɔm wɛðə weɐr enʤɔeeŋ tɐdee ez trule ɐ pjoɐ
bɐt ae dɛɐsee tɐmɒrəo kod izɐle ʃəo sʌmθeŋ ɐv ʤʌst hao fɑ
breteʃ klaemet kan tən trɛʧɐrɐs/
This transcription of Jonesian "RP" follows as closely as possible
all the preferred recommendations incorporated in the IPA's Principles
It used twelve IPA Cardinal Vowels, all of 1 to 8 and 13 & 14
two central-vowel symbols, /ə/ for the closer one and
the opener, as recommended at Principles page 7 § 18.
Not only does it have only two phoneme representations, /ɒ/
/ʌ/, in common with the Gimson 1962-70 and EPD 1977 notations, but it
contrasts considerably with the Abercrombie 1964 Specimen VI which
claimed to be "possibly more strictly in accordance with IPA principles
than any other type of transcription of English so far put
forward". Our passage is, for the purpose of comparison with
Abercrombie 1964, directly based on the picture of Jonesian "Received
Pronunciation" conveyed by Figures 12, 13 and 14 and also the
text of Jones 1956. Compare Abercrombie 1964 page 15.
The Abercrombie Specimen VI seemed to be less strictly in accordance with IPA recommendations in the following ways:
(i) The symbol used there as No 11 /ɜ/ and in No 14 /ɜo/ was according to
IPA Principles §18 to be used only "occasionally" that is
when "another" central vowel, ie other than ə or ɐ, may be needed. The Principles clearly recommended ə for the Jonesian vowel No 11.
(ii) The symbol ɐ should have been used for No 12 which was shown as characteristically opener than No 11.
(ii) Since both the beginning and the ending of the Jonesian diphthong
No 13 were within the CV (Cardinal Vowel) 2 area, the
Principles indicated /ee/ for it. There could be interpretation
difficulties as when radiate
would be /reedeeet/ but such ambiguous juxtapositions are not unknown
in widely used transcriptions. Compare Abercrombie 1964:16 with its
proposal to extend the syllabicity subscript sign to vocalic
(iv) The Jones 1956 text pages 56 and 60 made it clear that the
appropriate symbol for the Jonesian diphthongs numbers 15
and 16 was a and not ɑ.
(v) Both from the slightly higher diagram placing at Figure 13 and on
grounds of the "preferable" greater romanicness of ɔ, the strictest Principles symbolisation of Jonesian diphthong number 17 should be /ɔe/.
(vi) Since all the centring diphthongs on the Jones 1956 diagram
were aimed at points below mid and since the text mentions
even opener allophones parallel with the variation of vowel
number 12, they should all on strictest principles have
ended with ɐ and so be /eɐ, ɛɐ/ and /oɐ/.
Thus it will be seen that ten of the twenty phonemes of the Passy-style
Abercrombie 1964 Specimen VI may be argued to have been less
rigorously in conformity with the Principle's recommendations than they
might have been. The total number of our different vowel types is
eleven thus one less than in the Abercrombie 1964 Passy type.
I do not for one moment suggest that the above notation is
preferable to any existing set of symbols but I imagine that those
concerned with the topic of transcription, and especially those like
myself who try to abide by the principles laid down in the
publications of the International Phonetic Association which I have
quoted, will be interested to see how difficult it is to conform
to them rigidly.
The sentence used for the above passage was as short a one as I was
able to concoct which contained at least one occurrence of all the 44
segmental phonemes most usually recognised in analyses of General
British English pronunciation. In traditional orthography it is:
This good warm weather we're enjoying today is truly a pure pleasure
but I daresay tomorrow could easily show something of just how far the
British climate can turn treacherous.
It contains 110 phonemes in all. I should be glad to hear from any
reader who could produce a sentence with all 44 segmental
phonemes which was shorter and/or constituted more purely natural
PS The above is a version of an article which appeared at pages 72-3 of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association
in 1979. It has not been materially altered at all but
changes have been made to avoid its being misinterpreted in the wake of
the publication in 1999 of the excellent new Handbook of the International Phonetic Association and in order for it to be expressed in editorial terms in
the way I prefer to set things out. The five books quoted in it are all
detailed at Section 1 of this website Abbreviations and References.