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Phonetic Transcription in Theory and Practice$
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Barry Heselwood

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748640737

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748640737.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Phonetic Transcription in Theory and Practice
Author(s):

Barry Heselwood

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748640737.003.0001

Phonetic transcription is concerned with how the sounds used in spoken language are represented in written form. The medium of sound and the medium of writing are of course very different, having absolutely no common forms or substance whatsoever, but over the ages people have found ways to represent sounds using written symbols of one kind or another, ways that have been more or less successful for their purposes. This book aims to explore the history and development of phonetic transcription as a particular example of technographic writing and to examine critically the problems attending its theory and practice. A good many academic books include ‘theory and practice’ in their title, and I offer no apology for doing so in a work on phonetic transcription. Theory and practice have shaped the resources for transcription by pulling often in contrary directions through obedience to different priorities. Theory, being concerned with the logic and consistency of category construction, has made many attempts to impose itself on the design of phonetic notation systems, but practice has almost always rebelled, finding the demands of theory too inflexible and too forgetful of the practical need to make and read transcriptions with a minimum of difficulty. The failure of many proposed notation systems has illustrated that the only valid test for a notation is ‘practice, not abstract logical principles’ (...

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