In the IPA spelling of various words, I have often come across versions that use full stops and colons. E.g. I have seen 'county' spelled /kaʊnti/ and also /kaʊ.nti/ and 'courage' as spelled /kʌrɪdʒ/ as well as /kʌr.ɪdʒ/

Am I correct in thinking that It represents the break between syllables?

Thank you!

  • Are you sure you are not mixing this with markers for syllable stress? The secondary stress mark looks vaguely similar to a dot. home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~krussll/phonetics/transcription/… – tripleee Aug 2 '18 at 5:13
  • @tripleee - I thought this myself at first, but I have double checked and it is definitely a full stop / syllable break. Thanks for the suggestion though!! – bkc Aug 2 '18 at 7:19

P. 183 of the Handbook of the IPA (1999) lists the character and identifies it as a syllable break. The latter example illustrates the well-known fact that syllable breaks are higher level phonological abstractions rather than direct phonetic observations. Many people maintain that the syllable break in "courage" is before the rhotic, and many people maintain the contrary position that the break comes after it. The former transcription with ".nt" is, uh, rather anomalous but maybe someone has a syllabification with [nt] in the onset. I can't say I've ever seen that, though.

The slashes and brackets are not phonetic elements, they are notations signifying kind of analysis. They too are identified, p. 175, as enclosing phonetic ("[]") versus phonemic ("//") transcription. IPA does not posit a theory of the difference between phonetic versus phonemic. Actual usage is highly variable, where slashes might mean "underlying" or "some derived pre-phonetic representation", and brackets mean "any non-underlying representation". To understand an author's use of brackets and slashes, you have to understand their theory of representational levels (and the rules of the journal that they are publishing in).

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  • Thank you @user6726! I am a novice when it comes to phonetics, so I must admit that your response has confused me a bit though! To clarify, you are saying that some people would write it as /kʌr.ɪdʒ/ and others (but much less rarely) would write is as /kʌ.rɪdʒ/? Why is it that sometimes I see it as /kʌ.rɪdʒ/ (i.e. without the syllable break)? Is this technically incorrect? – bkc Aug 2 '18 at 7:13
  • The final one "without the syllable break" does have a syllable break, did you mean to put /kʌrɪdʒ/? Obviously syllable markup is optional. – tripleee Aug 2 '18 at 7:56
  • @user6726 My mistake - yes, the final one was meant to read /kʌrɪdʒ/ So both are correct? – bkc Aug 2 '18 at 9:01
  • @user6726 Also, is it correct that the transcription is enclosed in forward slashes, rather than brackets? I have read that forward slashes are used for phonetic translations and narrow transcriptions, whereas brackets are used for phonemic translation and broad transcriptions. Is this correct? And, what is "kʌrɪdʒ" considered to be: /kʌrɪdʒ/ or [kʌrɪdʒ]? – bkc Aug 2 '18 at 9:04
  • @user6726 syllables with an [nt] offset are quite common in African languages. I wouldn't be surprised if a Kenyan or someone would say /kaʊ.nti/ -- that's almost exactly how it would get syllabicated in Swahili for example. – OmarL Aug 2 '18 at 9:04

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