Friday, November 9, 2007

Those halcyon days of ASCII

Remember X-SAMPA? I think Mr. Parrish and I may be alone on this one. It seems to be gradually disappearing from the internet in the face of Unicode, which for once I can't fully say I'm in favor of. The thing is that sometimes I'm writing an e-mail and want to transcribe something phonetically, but I'm not in the mood to search through code tables to try to find the proper diacritic -- and then not be sure that the client's Unicode compatibility will be advanced enough to successfully decode my message on the other end.

I was surprised never to hear a word about any of the ASCII schemes for encoding the IPA during all my years in UC Berkeley's linguistics department. I think awareness needs to be raised that there is actually a standard way of doing this.

Here, then, is the X-SAMPA chart, as salvaged from one of only two places I could still find it in less than an hour of searching. Now that this is up here I figure I can use these symbols in my e-mails with impunity, n'est-ce pas?

Addendum, two weeks later: My self-righteousness about this wonderful standard may not have been fully warranted, given my discovery that I apparently actually use a mish-mash of X-SAMPA and Kirshenbaum, determined largely by my aesthetic judgments on the merits of the two systems. But let's be reasonable, who in their right mind would even consider using "%" for secondary stress? And [æ] is clearly supposed to be represented by "&" instead of "{". Basically, I would like people please to use the conventions in effect on the conlang listserv back in the mid-90's. Thank you.

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