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Specializations => Phonetics and Phonology => Topic started by: 「(゚ペ) on January 10, 2018, 12:41:38 PM

Title: superscript x in ipa
Post by: 「(゚ペ) on January 10, 2018, 12:41:38 PM
I recently encountered the suomen word '/terʋeˣ/'. I want to know what that superscript x at the end of the word means.
Title: Re: superscript x in ipa
Post by: Daniel on January 10, 2018, 07:52:42 PM
That's not IPA, at least not a standard form. So you should look at the source to figure out what they are trying to convey.

Of course /x/ is a voiceless velar fricative, so it might be indicating some of those properties. Velarization is usually expressed with a superscript of the voiced counterpart, as in: /tˠ/. But that usually only applies to consonants. I'm not quite sure what it would be for vowels (an extra-back pronunciation?).

Another possibility is that it is simply a "small" consonant, maybe not emphatic, maybe not released clearly, etc. Some non-standard transcriptions might do something like that, along the lines of indicating intonation information within a transcription.

Or is it possible you have the transcription slightly wrong? Could it be /e̽/? That's a mid-centralized vowel. Also an "x" but above the vowel, not as a separate superscript letter.

Older descriptions might have unusual conventions (not following IPA) or indicate non-systematic information (like a "small" consonant). If it's a new and otherwise-standard-IPA description, I'm not sure what else it would be adding. As I said, check the introduction or phonology section to see what they are trying to describe, if this is a grammar.

You could also look up the phoneme inventory and other phonological properties of the language on Wikipedia (or in another grammar) to see what it might be if you still can't figure it out.
Title: Re: superscript x in ipa
Post by: 「(゚ペ) on January 11, 2018, 11:16:00 AM
Hi, and thanks for answering my question so quickly. So, this is IPA or was intended to be IPA, but as you say it must be a non-standard transcription or it must be screwed up somehow. It comes from a Wiktionary entry, and here is a copy/paste of the exact text: 'IPA(key): /ˈterʋeˣ/'. That 'key' in parentheses links to a page on suomen phonology, but I found nothing there that explains what this means.

I thought this might be about velarization, but like you mentioned /ˠ/ is typically used for that, and velarization is usually applied to a consonant and not a vowel. There is also an audio sample which accompanies the sound, and both vowels sound the same to me. I'll include a link to the page I found this transcription on with the audio clip.

I also thought that it might be a very weak /x/, but I don't hear that in the audio sample.

I definitely don't have the transcription wrong. It appears that way on the original page as well as when I copy/paste it onto this forum. I suppose the original typer could have intended for the character to be an /e̽/ and somehow typed the character incorrectly, but I haven't been able to replicate  this mistake, but I have easily been able to replicate the original text by adding a superscript 'x' to a lowercase 'e'.

Alas, I have checked the IPA for eesti keel and suomi and have googled the phenomenon, but I have found no answers. Maybe I will figure out what is going on here after further study of the language. Thanks for your help anyway.
Title: Re: superscript x in ipa
Post by: Daniel on January 11, 2018, 12:10:31 PM
Another option is just to search for the symbol itself online and see what comes up. Often Wikipedia has an entry for orthographic or transcription uses of symbols.

In this case, I think I found the answer that way:
That links here:

Just from the information there, it would appear that superscript /x/ represents an etymological blend of /-k/ and /-h/, which was my first interpretation. But that doesn't seem to be right. Instead, apparently superscript x represents gemination.

The article on Finnish phonology has:
Gemination or a tendency of a morpheme to cause gemination is sometimes indicated with a superscripted "x", e.g. vene /ʋeneˣ/. Examples of gemination:

In my opinion, that's just a bizarre (mis)use of IPA. But I guess it's traditional for some research in Finnish etymology/philology? I have no expertise in that area so I can't comment further.

In short, it isn't a sound at all but a representation of the fact that a following consonant would be geminated (doubled/lengthened) when combined with this word. It seems that this actually is a historical remnant of the original /-k/ or /-h/ ending (see above), which was lost as an independent sound but preserved in contact with another consonant with which it assimilated.

This reminds me of Italian "redoppiamento sintattico" (or syntactic gemination/doubling) where an Italian word that in Latin had a final consonant may now trigger geminiation on a following word even though the consonant itself has been lost.
An example given there is "Andiamo a casa" ('we.go to home'), pronounced /...ak:asa/, with a geminated /k/, reflecting the fact that Italian 'a' comes from Latin 'ad', so that now-lost /d/ has an 'echo' just triggering gemination on the first consonant of a following word.

I guess something similar happens in Finnish and that is sometimes indicated with a superscript x!

(In defense of that approach, there isn't any other obvious way to do this in IPA so some additional notation is necessary. Another option would be something like /terʋe-:/, but that is confusing and doesn't quite convey what is intended. I've seen similar notation for tones applying to a following syllable/word though.)
Title: Re: superscript x in ipa
Post by: panini on January 13, 2018, 11:14:16 PM
Phonetically it doesn't mean anything. Phonologically, it refers to the fact that it's in the class of words with the "mystery consonant", sometimes claimed to be /h/, which causes gemination. But that is a phonological detail, not an audible facts. I think it is annoying that someone would claim to be phonetically transcribing when they are phonologically analyzing, but Wiki is full of annoyances.

Clements & Keyser in CV phonology have a decent analysis of this, and Kiparsky (naturally) has written up most of the relevant fact, in possibly two papers (which will be available on his web page).
Title: Re: superscript x in ipa
Post by: Daniel on January 14, 2018, 01:07:28 AM
Sounds exactly like redoppiamento sintattico, then, except that the etymology of the 'mystery consonant' may be unknown, while for Italian it is known (from Latin) but varies for different words.
Title: Re: superscript x in ipa
Post by: 「(゚ペ) on January 17, 2018, 09:15:07 AM
Thanks you guys! I understand now. I just didn't read the page on suomen phonology carefully enough. I agree with panini that this is the sort of thing that someone should discover on the suomen phonology page and should not be represented in the IPA transcription of suomen words. Anyway, at least my confusion has been alleviated.