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 plɛʒɐ
bɐt ae dɛɐsee tɐmɒrəo kod izɐle ʃəo sʌmθeŋ ɐv ʤʌst hao fɑ ðɐ
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  of 1949.
It used twelve IPA Cardinal Vowels, all of 1 to 8 and 13 & 14 plus two central-vowel symbols, /ə/ for the closer one and /ɐ/ for the opener, as recommended at Principles page 7 § 18.

Not only does it  have only two phoneme representations, /ɒ/ and /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 items.

(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 conversational English.

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