The stated goals of the Kirshenbaum transcription are that:
- It should be usable for both phonemic and narrow phonetic transcription.
- It should be possible to represent all symbols and diacritics in the IPA.
- The previous guideline notwithstanding, it is expected that (as in the past) most use will be in transcribing English, so where tradeoffs are necessary, decisions should be made in favor of ease of representation of phonemes which are common in English.
- The representation should be readable.
- It should be possible to mechanically translate from the representation to a character set which includes IPA. The reverse would also be nice.
Given the third, fourth, and fifth of the goals, why did Kirshenbaum choose to invert the IPA’s decision to make ‹r› the symbol for the alveolar trill and require ‘fancy characters’ for the other rhotic consonants?
Most IPA phonemic transcription schemes for English sensibly use the more familiar symbol ‹r› for English’s rhotic consonant. If Kirshenbaum transcriptions are to be mechanically transliterated to IPA, then the long-winded ‹r<trl>› form must be used for it to come out correctly.
Furthermore, the IPA’s choice to use ‹r› to represent the alveolar trill is nicely international, since many languages will at least sometimes use it even if it is not the dominant realization of any phoneme (just as in English). Among European languages [ɹ] is unique to English as the ‘normal’ realization. This is a jarring contrast to Kirshenbaum’s general approach, which (despite the third goal) is highly international, arguably more so than IPA, due to its featural nature.
This choice of symbol for the alveolar approximant seems to be excessively focussed on one specific use case: the narrow phonetic transcription of English. For broader purposes it exists in direct conflict with the goals of Kirshenbaum.
Is there any other reason for Kirshenbaum to prefer it this way around?
(Furthermore I noticed while writing this that Appendix D of the specification says that ‹r<trl>› is alveolar while Appendix E incorrectly gives the IPA symbol for the uvular trill as its equivalent.)