There are some proposals for IPrA (International Prosodic Alphabet, similar to IPA but for prosody). The meeting for IPrA (link to UCLA webpage on the topic) is planning to be held in BU in mid 2016. How will these meetings change our way of transcribing prosody? and in general will it work properly?

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    Unfortunately, I think speculation and prediction (prognostication) falls squarely under the heading "opinion-based" (i.e. subjective), but Linguistics is a small enough stack that maybe he community will still welcome the question.
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 4, 2016 at 21:34
  • But we as scholars in this community can propose our "opinion" on this matter. And/Or maybe our plans for the future (maybe some users from this community will be attending the meetings). I , for one, think that this works because (as I heard from prof Sun-ah Jun from UCLA) this proposal is for transcribing prosody in caterogical phonetic. And this is what I have been looking for in my previous endeavours in transcribing intonation. Again since it's a scholaric community we can discuss the proposals and the future of this meetings. Feb 5, 2016 at 9:40
  • I think there may be a number of non-specialists like me who'd be interested to see examples of how IPrA might work. Feb 6, 2016 at 14:00
  • Asking for an explanation of the proposed changes would be good. Asking for a prediction of how the meetings will change the world is not.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 8, 2016 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


Based on the available information, the answer is, it depends on who "we" are and what you mean by "prosody". It appears that the idea is to extend ToBI style transcription to include non-pitch features of intonation, mainly lengthening but also laryngeal features if there are comparable effects. If you define "prosody" to refer just to intonation, then this will be a relatively significant change, since there isn't a system for notating final lengthening qua intoneme. If you take the broader view (including long and short consonants and vowels in Finnish, stress marks in Russian, tones in Chinese, breathiness in Gujarati), then the change will be smaller in magnitude since most of prosody in the wider sense would not be affected. But, it could lead to an improvement in quality of transcriptions, in the same way that separating intonational F0 properties from grammatical and lexical tone properties has eliminated some potentially confusing representational claims about data. For example, a number of tone languages have intonational pitch modifications like final rise, which interact with phonemic tones to create a complex plethora of F0 patterns. Using the ToBI technique, it isn't necessary to switch to pitch integers or to add supper-high and mid tone marks to describe the ends of phrases, you just use the standard accents that you would use for lexical tone, and also add appropriate "boundary tones" and "pitch accent" letters, to describe whatever distinction is being signalled.

For people working on non-intonational features of language, there will be no change in how you transcribe e.g. breathiness, length or nasalization, which is phonemic in many languages, and people will continue to use standard IPA resources. On those occasions where lexical and intonational properties intersect in a language, the analyst will have an additional transcriptional resource available to notate intonational prolongation vs. phonemic length. Even if as field-workers we don't work out a ToBI-plus analysis of intonation that encapsulates prolongation or shortening features, we will know that these properties can be described, without complicating the phonemic transcription.

Of course for people working on intonation, this will be all good, since (theoretically) it will allow one to notate problematic properties such as "saying a word faster" (associated with imperatives in a number of languages), which does not reduce well to a sequence of segmental breve marks.

  • So you think ToBI style transcription of prosody is going to work better, right? I'm asking this question because I'm working on prosodic transcription (Intonation in particular) and I would like to understand how would it work and why other systems like INTSINT did not work well. Mar 5, 2016 at 6:48
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    INTSINT doesn't speak to duration, phonation, or anything other than pitch that might be relevant, so it isn't any better than raw ToBI. Whether or not it actually will work better will depend on the extent to which the creators are ignorant of or disregard relevant properties e.g. would they say "We don't need to indicate breathiness"? Because of Korean, I think they won't. IMO success hinges on whether this is seen as a tool for English, or for human language.
    – user6726
    Mar 5, 2016 at 17:57

I personally believe that transcribing intonation within the level of phonetics is going to work because phonologically speaking our understanding of intonation is close to none and systems like ToBI aren't sufficient for complex systems like intonation.

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