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A Plaintive Note re the Recent IPA Revisions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2009

Leigh Lisker
Haskins Laboratories, 270 Crown St., New Haven, CT and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA


At the 1989 IPA Convention in Kiel it was decided that in the latest version of the IPA writing system no recognition be granted to a feature of force of articulation. At the time I questioned the advisability of this action, but another viewpoint won the day. Very possibly the refusal to allow for the notation of ‘fortis-lenis’ judgments in IPA transcription was based primarily on the conviction that ‘articulatory force’ has no generally accepted physical correlate, but whatever the basis for the decision, I would reiterate the opinion that it was wrongheaded, even though I too am reluctant to accept any of the suggested meanings attached to the terms ‘fortis’ and ‘lenis’ as sufficient for regarding force of articulation as an independent dimension of phonetic description. However, the function of the IPA alphabet is to facilitate the communication of phonetic judgments of speech. It has not been proposed, so far as I know, that the IPA alphabet represent only those judgments couched in terms that allow for physical disconfirmation.

Revision of the IPA
Copyright © Journal of the International Phonetic Association 1992

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