Author Topic: difference between phonetic and phonemic notation  (Read 849 times)

Offline tully

  • New Linguist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
difference between phonetic and phonemic notation
« on: March 05, 2017, 04:49:29 AM »
What is the difference between phonetic and phonemic notation?
[igat] how can i translate this phonetic notation into phonemic notation?
Thank you :)

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1485
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: difference between phonetic and phonemic notation
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2017, 06:28:32 AM »
Narrow/phonetic notation is usually written between square brackets and represents a specific pronunciation, such as from a specific recording.

Broad/phonemic notation is usually written between slashes and represents the underlying structure of the word, as stored in the mental lexicon.

The narrow/phonetic transcription can be determined based on the broad/phonemic transcription and the specific phonological rules in the language as well as various other factors including individual variation, pragmatic context (like speed of pronunciation and emotional state), and also possible free variation. It is impossible to truly transcribe at a precise phonetic level that captures all detail (that would simply be a recording) so narrow transcriptions can be at any level of relevant detail beyond the phonemes. Often a narrow transcription is based just on the 'normal' phonological processes in the language like, say, vowel reduction and T-flapping in English, and some obvious cases of assimilation, but it could be much narrower in other cases.

The broad/phonemic transcription can be determined from the narrow transcription by doing that process in reverse, but because the phonetic articulation can vary to theoretically an infinite degree and there are no constraints on how a word could be pronounced (or even mispronounced), it isn't possible to be entirely certain about the original underlying form. In short, you would need to recognize the word. This is the problem of (mechanical) speech recognition, as well as the field linguist converting recordings to a phonemic transcription. Once you recognize the word, then you can write it out phonemically. You don't even really need the narrow transcription to do that, after you know what the word is. If you very precisely know what all of the phonological rules in the language are, and if you have only phonological rules generating the narrow transcription (no individual variation, mistakes, etc.), then you could theoretically apply them in reverse to, in most cases, find just one underlying form that would generate that narrow transcription after the phonological rules apply. But that's a lot of ifs. It's easier to just recognize the word in context and go from there.

----
So in answer to your second question, without any context and without even knowing the language it is in, I can't tell you what [igat] would be. I don't recognize the word in English. I can pronounce it (roughly ee-got), but I don't recognize it. Maybe it's in another language? Or maybe it's a phrase like an atypical (dialectal?) pronunciation of "He got".
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline panini

  • Linguist
  • ***
  • Posts: 67
Re: difference between phonetic and phonemic notation
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2017, 09:23:07 AM »
In addition to what Daniel said, there is an ambiguity in actual usage of the brackets. First, although square brackets are supposed to represent actual phonetic outputs, they are often indiscriminately used to refer to any representation and how it would be pronounced, if it were pronounced. This is IMO wrong, but the practice exists, so beware. Second, slash brackets do systematically make two different claims: one is about the phonemic form, and the other is about the underlying form. The difference resides in the fact that a given word might have an underlying form that is more abstract than the phonemic form. An example is German [pʊntʰ] (there are other phonetic details that could be added, but let's not), which is phonemically /bunt/, but which represents two different words, underlyingly: /bund/ "federal" and /bunt/ "colorful". Thus slash brackets simply mean "some level of representation which isn't the actual phonetic output", typically excluding all of the low-level allophonic information.