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The Scribbler wrote:
> First post here, so hope I do it right. I'm trying to nail down the
> basics of a phonetic inventory for my language. I'm not interested in
> doing more than creating a chart/alphabet sort of thing with a couple
> of allophones, specifically for the stressed vowels.
> 
> How do you pick which sound to use to represent a vowel when that
> language doesn't distinguish between three extremely similar sounds
> on the chart?
> 
> I just listened to all the "e" and "a" sounds on the IPA vowel chart
> and have no idea which one is most accurate. If it's basically all
> the way from e to ɛ for the standard e sound but it gets
> retracted/stressed to a specific sound, then how do I treat that? Do
> I need to break out the entire set of allophones or do I just pick
> one or what?

Well, if you check different online IPA charts, you won't always find 
exactly the same sounds for the vowels. And it's common for vowel 
phonemes to have different allophones ... if you've got a vowel that 
varies from [e] to [ɛ] you could label that as /e/ (easier to type), or 
/ɛ/ if you'd consider the [ɛ] allophone as more basic.

> Second question: if I can't find a sound on the vowel chart that
> actually sounds just like the retracted i, should I just mark it with
> a retracted diacritic and not keep trying? Wikipedia and a helpful
> person on an internet board pointed me in the direction of retracted
> vowels and a, for example, retracts neatly to ɑ, as predicted by
> Wikipedia. But i does not retract to ɪ. It retains its i sound, but
> my tongue does retract and it does sound a little different when I
> pronounce it. Can't tell where it fits on the vowel chart though.

It could be between [i] and [ɨ] on the chart, or it might be something 
more specific like "retracted tongue root" (of which I don't know if 
there are any good sound examples ... there's an IPA diacritic for it, 
but I don't know how that differs exactly from just "retracted".)