I am very new to linguistics, and am trying to transcribe the word 'courage' into IPA. I have come across a few different transcriptions, but I think the correct one might be "kʌrɪdʒ". Is this correct? I have also come across "kʌɹɪdʒ" (is this the American version, whereas the "kʌrɪdʒ" is British?)

Assistance would be very much appreciated! Thank you :)

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    /r/ is a trill, which isn't present in British (received pronunciation). It should be /ɹ/ as well. – WavesWashSands Jul 31 '18 at 11:28
  • In the part of England where I live (Yorkshire) the first vowel is /ʊ/ rather than /ʌ/. But you're not wrong. – Colin Fine Jul 31 '18 at 13:03
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    @WavesWashSands: The question doesn't indicate whether it's a matter of phonetic or phonemic transcription. IPA [r], in phonetic square brackets, is a trill. But because /r/ is in phonemic slashes, I don't think there's any theoretical guarantee of its phonetic realization. It is in any case quite common to transcribe the English rhotic as /r/. Similarly, in some languages the phoneme transcribed /r/ is frequently realized in certain contexts as a tap or flap rather than as a trill. – brass tacks Jul 31 '18 at 15:08
  • @WavesWashSands Read this. Since English has only one rhotic consonant, /r/ is a perfectly sensible notation. One could say /r/ is even preferable to /ɹ/ because it's realization-agnostic. – Nardog Jul 31 '18 at 20:03
  • @sumelic It's not slashes (phonemic) vs. brackets (phonetic). It's broad vs. narrow, and even then it depends on what one wants to convey in a transcription. Narrowness is a continuum. If one wants to convey by a symbol "a rhotic consonant, no matter the realization", using "r" is perfectly fine even in transcriptions enclosed by brackets (unless the language in question contrast two or more rhotics). – Nardog Jul 31 '18 at 20:08

There is no one right answer, because it depends on what you are transcribing, and what conventions you are assuming. As a narrow transcription it is almost certainly not correct for any dialect of English spoken north of the Equator, because "c" is [kʰ] and "r" is [ɾ] or [ɹ,ɹʷ]. Assuming that this is a broad, i.e. phonemic transcription, you have to decide (know) what the phonemes are of the particular dialect, and that is very tricky. For example, there is one tradition where the vowel of "sit" is [i] (and the vowel of "seat" is [i:]); another where these words are [sɪt, sit], also [sɪt, si:t], and [sɪt, sɪjt]. The vowels [ʌ] and [ə] are in complementary distribution with [ʌ] only appearing in a stressed syllable: so you could use either [ʌ] or [ə] to represent the phoneme, since it is an abstraction from phonetics, anyhow.

In American English, there are two other pronunciations, [kɹ̩ɹɪdʒ] and [kɹ̩ʷɹɪdʒ], that is, with a syllabic velarized rhotic approximant which is either rounded or not. The presence of a non-syllabic [ɹ] before [ɪ] is not mandatory, so [kɹ̩ɪdʒ] and [kɹ̩ʷɪdʒ] are just a good and easier to type (less stuff). When you get into the analysis, deriving surface forms from underlying forms, it is actually somewhat "simpler" to assume [kɹ̩(ʷ)ɪdʒ], but that simplicity depends on a particular theory of rules.

The version with [ʌ] is also used (phonetically realized) in the US, though not my dialect (I think it's more East Coast). But: it is common to analyze kɹ̩ɪdʒ as deriving from kʌɹɪdʒ, so that syllabic sonorants can be removed from the phonemic inventory (reducing the inventory is a commonly assumed goal of analysis).

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  • My midW American pronunciation is your variant [kɹ̩ʷɪdʒ], with the first syllable [kɹ̩ʷ] stressed and the second unstressed. – Greg Lee Jul 31 '18 at 19:25
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    I would add that [ɹ̩] is frequently written as "ɚ", which is equivalent, and is most commonly analyzed phonemically as /ər/ (also /ɜ(:)r/ in stressed positions). Labialization ([ʷ]) often accompanies /r/ in stressed, syllable-initial positions, but I don't think it's common or as salient in syllabic [ɹ] so I wouldn't transcribe it even in a narrow transcription. (If we're getting that narrow, pharyngealization also accompanies [ɹ], and [ɹ] has two realizations, but these are also rarely indicated. [dʒ] may also be devoiced depending on what ensues.) – Nardog Jul 31 '18 at 19:57
  • [ʌ] and [ə] being in complementary distribution is usually not applied to British English (RP) because e.g. unending and an ending contrast. "Some would claim that this is a non-issue, because STRUT is always stressed and schwa is never stressed. This argument might work if we define stress lexically, but it will not hold if by stress we mean a rhythmic beat in running speech." In words like courage, the distinction is particularly important because RP contrasts /ʌr/ and /ɜːr/, which American English doesn't. – Nardog Jul 31 '18 at 20:40
  • @Nardog do unending and an ending not have different prosody in BrE? The blogpost is unconvincing: " can, if I choose, produce both ə and ʌ either stressed or unstressed." I can distinguish and make all kinds of sounds, if I choose, but that doesn't mean English has those sounds on a phonological level. – ubadub Oct 1 '18 at 22:36
  • @ubadub Honestly, I agree. But analyses that posit a distinct /ʌ/ phoneme are still dominant particularly in literature that use IPA for transcription of English. – Nardog Oct 2 '18 at 20:07

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