En réponse à Jonathan Johnson <[log in to unmask]>:

> Hello all. I'm relatively new to conlanging, and I don't know much
> about
> linguistics.

Should I welcome you? With all those new members suddenly I cannot remember if
I already saw your name or not :((( . Anyway, even if it was already done,
welcome to the list!

 The only stuff I do know I learned from various internet
> sources. I'm trying to get to know the IPA chart, and I think I have
> it
> mostly figured out, but I'd like to verify this stuff with people who
> know
> what they're talking about. Here are my questions:
> // is for phonemes, [] is for phones, what is for graphemes? I see a
> web
> site that uses <> but I thought I saw someone use {} before.

There is no strict convention to enclose written text. As you said, <> is a
possibility, but may be dangerous as some email clients want to interpret that
as HTML. {} is indeed another possibility. On the list a nice convention, which
I use myself, is to use ||, i.e. enclose the written text in pipes. Choose
whichever convention you prefer, you'll be understood anyway.

> Does [?] make a sound? or is it just a lack of sound? I've heard that
> [?]
> occurs in the English phrase "uh oh!". It seems like there is a subtle
> sound at the end of "uh" which makes it sound kind of like "uht". I've
> heard that some languages use [?] as a phoneme. This true?

Yes. In Arabic, for instance, the glottal stop /?/ is a phoneme and is
different from an absence of sound. To listen to the sound itself, go to, click on "Consonants (pulmonic)" and
click on the symbol for the glottal stop to hear it pronounced. Your
description is correct. Some English dialects do pronounce final t's as [?]
(you seem to know already about phones and phonemes. So you probably know that
this is described as [?] being an *allophone* of /t/ when word final). It may
be your case. Then you just have always pronounced glottal stops all your life.
You just didn't recognise them for what they are as they are not phonemic in
English, and thus you perceive them as different consonants.

> Is [B\] the sound that English speakers sometimes make to mimic an
> airplane?

It depends how you mimic airplanes! :)))) More accurately probably, it's often
a site babies do (and parents imitate to make the baby laugh ;)) ).

> What is a rhotic? I've heard somewhere that r sounds are called
> rhotics,
> but I rarely hear that term used. Are [r] [4] [r\] [r'] [r\'] [R\] and
> [R]
> all rhotics?

Yes. rhoticity is an ill-defined feature unless you know about acoustics. There
are people who know more than me on that subject, but IIRC rhotics all share a
common acoustic feature that make them sound "alike" for humans. That's why
despite the big absolute difference in sound between French [R] and American
[r\], a French will recognise an American [r\] as a sound near to his [R], even
if he is unable to reproduce it accurately, and vice versa.

> Is [X] the harsh "ch"/"kh" sound of Hebrew?

I thought this was [x], but I don't know enough Hebrew to be sure.

> Is [x] the Spanish "j" sound?

In Castillian Spanish yes.

> Is [j\] the Spanish "y" sound?

In some dialects of Spanish yes.

> [w] is described as labio-velar. Does that mean [w] is a rounded [M\]?
> (M\
> = velar approximant)

Basically yes. That's often an explanation I use to teach people about [M\].
Unround a [w] and you basically get a [M\] :)) .

 If so, since [w] is the semi-vowel equivalent of
> [u],
> is [M\] the semi-vowel equivalent of [M]? (M = unrounded [u])

Spot on!

> would
> certainly explain the similar representation.

The similarity of the IPA symbols is certainly due to that. The similarity of
the X-SAMPA sounds is probably related to it too.

> whats the difference between [a] and [A]? I've heard that [a] is the
> vowel
> in "father" while [A] is the vowel in "ought", but I think I pronounce
> these vowels the same way. Is this because "father" and "ought" use
> the
> same vowel in some dialects of English but not in others? Or is it
> just
> that the difference is very subtle? or what?

English is the worst example to use when trying to explain sound differences,
because of the proliferation of different dialects with different phonologies.
What is pronounced differently by one won't be by another, and the different
vowel systems are just uncomparable. The difference between [a] and [A] is a
difference of backness (and note that I was taught that "father" used [A],
and "ought" [O:]), i.e. they are pronounced exactly the same, except that [a]
is articulated at the front of the mouth (it sounds "clearer", in some way),
while [A] is articulated at the back of it (it's created between the back of
the tongue and the throat for me for instance).

Note that there is no such thing as a "subtle" difference in phonetics.
Languages that make a phonemic difference make it whatever the absolute
difference between the sounds. [a] and [A] used to be separate phonemes in
French for instance, and people didn't have problems to distinguish them. I
know I still don't since the loss of that distinction happened during my
lifetime :)) .

> That is all I can think of at the moment. I'd appreciate your help.

I hope I've been of some help :) .


Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.