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>> Since you need to assume the existence of a
>> /j/ before /i/, what's the gain of not doing
>> it elsewhere?
>
> OK. I concede your point. My original problem, however, was when to
> put /j/ ( my "y") in a phonetic rendering and when to use my "E".
> There seemed to be some borderline cases where I couldn't make up my
> mind which to use, so I thought in the interests of consistency I
> would use one or the other everywhere. (I thought "theater", "beyond"
> to be ambiguous, although applying your disyllabic standard, it seems
> clearer: ~TE@tR~, ~bEond~ )
>
> On the other hand, if I treat the "I" in "ice" as a single symbol in
> spite of the glide from one sound to another, and the "ou" in "out" as
> a single symbol, then why shouldn't I use a single symbol for the "u"
> in "use" or the "yaw" in "yawn"? For that matter, what about the "wi"
> in "swim", or the "wa" in "wash". Aren't these also single units? And
> if "wi" is not, then why is the "ui" in "quick" considered a single
> unit? Or is it?

The sticking point here is phonemic and non-phonemic sequences, which
doesn't have a clear solution. On the one hand, I think you'd be very
justified in going with the phonetic equivalent, and writing your "I"
as "ay". On the other hand, consider the relative frequency of V+y
sequences:

ay - very common as "long i"
ey - very common as "long a"
oy - somewhat common, but spelled as oy or oi
uy - very rare, occurs sometimes in borrowings

I don't believe that other V+y sequences occur at all. What this
demonstrates is that English doesn't, in general, allow any vowel to
be followed by /y/, but rather has a pretty limited set of diphthongs
that are arguably phonemic. So the choice is up to you. If you want a
completely phonetic spelling (which I believe was your original
intent), then V+y and V+w sequences should be spelled as diphthongs.
If you want a phonemic spelling, then write them as single symbols.

The y+V sequences, on the other hand, are clearly a sequence of two
phonemes. Any vowel can occur after /y/ (I quickly came up with yeast,
yay, yes, yak, yon, young, yore, you), and they don't begin with a
glottal stop (indicating that the /y/ is being treated as a
consonant). There is no other reason to treat them as monophonemic.


-- 
JS Bangs
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http://jsbangs.wordpress.com

"Have you not seen the heaps of bones piled on each other, skulls stripped of
flesh, staring fearsome and horrible from empty eye-sockets? Have you seen the
grinning mouths and the rest of the limbs lying casually about? If you have seen
those things, then in them you have observed yourself." -St. Gregory of Nyssa