On 19 July 2016 at 12:21, The Scribbler <[log in to unmask]> 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? If you're doing a narrow transcription, then yes, you break out all the allophones. But if you're just trying to pick a letter to use for your alphabet, it doesn't really matter. Typically, you'll either pick whichever one is most central, or whichever one is most typical. I.e., the middle of the range on the chart, or the most common way that phoneme is pronounced, or most basic way that phoneme is pronounced in isolation (where those last two are usually the same, but not always). Or, you can just pick whichever one you think looks nicest. > 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. Well, that's what the diacritics are *for*, so... sure. If none of the basic vowels sound quite right, then go for it, use the diacritics. -l.