Now normally my favourite type of IPA is India Pale Ale. This was originally developed, as it says on the – er – tin, to sell to the British in India. But nowadays I’m into another type of IPA, a type which I first came across in 1976 when I began to study linguistics. For today’s IPA is none other than the International Phonetic Alphabet.
Here’s an idea of what it looks like:
it’s a set of symbols for transcribing the sounds people make when they speak, so that you can record and read back exactly how a person says a particular phrase. So for example, whereas a writer like myself would indicate a cockney accent by changing a few vowels, so that instead of:
‘My brain itches’ you would write:
‘My broin itchis.’
That’s not terribly accurate but it gives the reader an idea; likewise if I were to indicate a Cornish accent, I might do it like this:
‘Moy brayne itchus.’
These are not terribly good and I might not bother at all: some ways of indicating accents can be patronising or just bizarre, and it can be better just to remind readers at intervals that the speaker has a strong accent. But! with the IPA you can tell people exactly how a person has uttered a particular phrase; so a posh person might say it like this:
/mai brein ichiz/
That’s not entirely accurate because I haven’t got the right set of characters: I expect there’s a way to type in a phrase with an accent and get it in the IPA, but normally you have to speak to get an accurate transcription. Anyway, there it is. I prefer to have fun as a writer and do what I feel like, though – rather than being accurate.
Philosophy today where we will be doing consciousness. Providing I can stay awake…
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