|Americanist phonetic notation|
|Languages||Reserved for phonetic transcription of any language|
|1880s to the present|
Americanist phonetic notation, also known as the North American Phonetic Alphabet or NAPA, is a system of phonetic notation originally developed by European and American anthropologists and language scientists (many of whom were students of Neogrammarians) for the phonetic and phonemic transcription of indigenous languages of the Americas and for languages of Europe. It is still commonly used by linguists working on, among others, Slavic, Uralic, Semitic languages and for the languages of the Caucasus and of India; however, Uralists commonly use a variant known as the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet. Despite its name, the term "Americanist phonetic alphabet" has always been widely used outside the Americas. For example, a version of it is the standard for the transcription of Arabic in articles published in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, the journal of the German Oriental Society.
Certain symbols in NAPA have been used as obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet in certain transcriptions. Over the years, NAPA has drawn closer to the IPA. However, there remain significant differences. Among these are:
- ⟨y⟩ for [j], ⟨ñ⟩ for [ɲ], ⟨c⟩ or ⟨¢⟩ for [t͡s], ⟨ƛ⟩ for [t͡ɬ] and ⟨ł⟩ for [ɬ]
- Palato-alveolar ⟨č ǰ š ž⟩ and sometimes alveopalatal ⟨ć ś ź ń⟩
- Advancing diacritic (inverted breve) for dentals and palatals (apart from non-sibilant dental ⟨θ ð⟩), and retracting diacritic (a dot) for retroflex and uvulars (apart from uvular ⟨q⟩)
- ⟨r⟩ or ⟨ř⟩ for a flap and ⟨r̃⟩ for a trill
- Ogonek for nasalization
- Dot over vowel for centering, two dots (diaeresis) over a vowel to change fronting (for front rounded vowels and unrounded back vowels)
- Acute and grave accents over vowels for stress
John Wesley Powell used an early set of phonetic symbols in his publications (particularly Powell 1880) on American language families, although he chose symbols which had their origins in work by other phoneticians and American writers (e.g., Pickering 1820; Cass 1821a, 1821b; Hale 1846; Lepsius 1855, 1863; Gibbs 1861; and Powell 1877). The influential anthropologist Franz Boas used a somewhat different set of symbols (Boas 1911). In 1916, a publication by the American Anthropological Society greatly expanded upon Boas's alphabet. This same alphabet was discussed and modified in articles by Bloomfield & Bolling (1927) and Herzog et al. (1934). The Americanist notation may be seen in the journals American Anthropologist, International Journal of American Linguistics, and Language. Useful sources explaining the symbols – some with comparisons of the alphabets used at different times – are Campbell (1997:xii-xiii), Goddard (1996:10-16), Langacker (1972:xiii-vi), Mithun (1999:xiii-xv), and Odden (2005).
It is often useful to compare the Americanist tradition with another widespread tradition, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Unlike the IPA, Americanist phonetic notation does not require a strict harmony among character styles: letters from the Greek and Latin alphabets are used side-by-side. Another contrasting feature is that, to represent some of the same sounds, the Americanist tradition relies heavily on letters modified with diacritics; whereas the IPA, which reserves diacritics for other specific uses, gave Greek and Latin letters new shapes. These differing approaches reflect the traditions' differing philosophies. The Americanist linguists were interested in a phonetic notation that could be easily created from typefaces of existing orthographies. This was seen as more practical and more cost-efficient, as many of the characters chosen already existed in Greek and East European orthographies.
Abercrombie (1991:44-45) recounts the following concerning the Americanist tradition:
In America phonetic notation has had a curious history. Bloomfield used IPA notation in his early book An Introduction to the Study of Language, 1914, and in the English edition of his more famous Language, 1935. But since then, a strange hostility has been shown by many American linguists to IPA notation, especially to certain of its symbols.
An interesting and significant story was once told by Carl Voegelin during a symposium held in New York in 1952 on the present state of anthropology. He told how, at the beginning of the 1930s, he was being taught phonetics by, as he put it, a "pleasant Dane", who made him use the IPA symbol for sh in ship, among others. Some while later he used those symbols in some work on an American Indian language he had done for Sapir. When Sapir saw the work he "simply blew up", Voegelin said, and demanded that in future Voegelin should use 's wedge' (as š was called), instead of the IPA symbol.
I have no doubt that the "pleasant Dane" was H. J. Uldall, one of Jones's most brilliant students, who was later to become one of the founders of glossematics, with Louis Hjelmslev. Uldall did a great deal of research into Californian languages, especially into Maidu or Nisenan. Most of the texts he collected were not published during his lifetime. It is ironic that when they were published, posthumously, by the University of California Press, the texts were "reorthographized", as the editor's introduction put it: the IPA symbols Uldall had used were removed and replaced by others.
What is strange is that the IPA symbols seem so obviously preferable to the Americanist alternatives, the 'long s' to the 's wedge', for example. As Jones often pointed out, in connected texts, for the sake of legibility diacritics should be avoided as far as possible. Many Americanist texts give the impression of being overloaded with diacritics.
One may wonder why there should be such a hostility in America to IPA notation. I venture to suggest a reason for this apparently irrational attitude. The hostility derives ultimately from the existence, in most American universities, of Speech Departments, which we do not have in Britain. Speech Departments tend to be well-endowed, large, and powerful. In linguistic and phonetic matters they have a reputation for being predominantly prescriptive, and tend to be considered by some therefore to be not very scholarly. In their publications and periodicals the notation they use, when writing of pronunciation, is that of the IPA. My belief is that the last thing a member of an American Linguistics Department wants is to be mistaken for a member of a Speech Department; but if he were to use IPA notation in his writings he would certainly lay himself open to the suspicion that he was.
There is no central authority. The Western Institute for Endangered Language Documentation (WIELD) recommends the following conventions:
Advanced is ⟨C̯⟩ and retracted is ⟨C̣⟩. Geminate is ⟨C꞉⟩ or ⟨CC⟩. Glottalization is e.g. ⟨č̓⟩ or ⟨m̓⟩ (ejectives are not distinguished from other types of glottalization). Palatalization is written ⟨Cʸ⟩. Labialization, velarization, aspiration, voicelessness and prenasalization are as in the IPA. Pharyngeals, epiglottals and glottals are as in the IPA, as are implosives and clicks.
- Among the dental fricatives, ⟨θ ð⟩ are slit fricatives (non-sibilant) while ⟨s̯ z̯⟩ are sulcalized (sibilant).
Most languages only have one phonemic rhotic consonant (only about 18% of the world's languages have more than one rhotic). As a result, rhotic consonants are generally transcribed with the ⟨r⟩ character. This usage is common practice in Americanist and also other notational traditions (such as the IPA). This lack of detail, although economical and phonologically sound, requires a more careful reading of a given language's phonological description to determine the precise phonetics. A list of rhotics is given below.
Other flaps are ⟨ň, l̆⟩ etc.
There are many alternate symbols seen in Americanist transcription. Below are some equivalent symbols matched with the symbols shown in the consonant chart above.
- ʸ may be used for fronted velars (e.g., kʸ = k̯, gʸ = g̑)
- Some transcriptions superscript the onset of doubly articulated consonants and the release of fricatives, e.g. ⟨ᵍɓ⟩, ⟨t̓ᶿ⟩.
- There may be a distinction between laminal retroflex ⟨č̣ ṣ̌ ẓ̌⟩ and apical retroflex ⟨c̣ ṣ ẓ⟩ in some transcriptions.
- The fronting diacritic may be a caret rather than an inverted breve, e.g. dental ⟨ṱ⟩ and palatal ⟨k̭⟩.
- Many researchers use the x-caron (x̌) for the voiceless uvular fricative.
Pullum & Ladusaw
According to Pullum & Ladusaw (1996), current Americanist symbols are closer to the IPA. There is however little standardization of rhotics, and ⟨ṛ⟩ may be either retroflex or uvular, though as noted above ⟨ṛ⟩ or ⟨ṛ̌⟩ may be a retroflex flap vs ⟨ṛ̃⟩ as a uvular trill. Apart from the ambiguity of the rhotics below, and minor graphic variants (ȼ g γ for c ɡ ɣ and the placement of the diacritic in g̑ γ̑), this is compatible with the WIELD recommendations. Only precomposed affricates are shown below; others may be indicated by digraphs (e.g. ⟨dz⟩).
Ejectives and implosives follow the same conventions as in the IPA, apart from the ejective apostrophe being placed above the base letter.
The journal Anthropos published the alphabet to be used in their articles in 1907. Although European, it is the same basic system that Sapir and Boas introduced to the United States. Transcription is italic, without other delimiters.
|Affricate||voiceless||p̌ (pf)||ť̯ (t̯s̯)||ť (ts)||ṭ̌ (ṭṣ)||č (tš)||ǩ̯ (k̯x̯)||ǩ (kx)||ḳ̌ (ḳx̣)|
|voiced||b̌ (bv)||ď̯ (d̯z̯)||ď (dz)||ḍ̌ (ḍẓ)||ǰ (dž)||ǧ̯ (g̯y)||ǧ (gÿ)||ǧ̣ (g̣ỵ̈)|
|Rhotic||r̯ ꭈ̯||r ꭈ||ṛ ꭈ̣||ꭉ̯ ꭊ̯||ꭉ ꭊ||ꭉ̣ ꭊ̣|
|Lateral affricate||voiceless||t̪ (t̰)||k̪ (k̰)|
|voiced||��||d̪ (d̰)||g̪ (g̰)|
|Lateral fricative||voiceless||s̪ (s̰)||x̪ (x̰)|
|voiced||z̪ (z̰)||y̪ (y̰)|
|Nasal||m ꬺ (ṁ)||n̯||n||ṇ||(ń)||ꬻ̯||ꬻ (ṅ)||ꬻ̣|
Palatalized consonants are written with an acute - t́ d́ ć j́ ś ź ľ ń etc. Semivowels are i̯ u̯ ü̯ o̯ e̯ etc.
WIELD recommends the following conventions. It doesn't provide characters for distinctions that aren't attested in the literature:
No distinction is made between front and central for the lowest unrounded vowels. Diphthongs are e.g. ⟨ai⟩ or ⟨ay⟩, depending on phonological analysis. Nasal vowels are e.g. ⟨ą⟩. Long vowels are e.g. ⟨a꞉⟩. A three-way length distinction may be ⟨a a꞉ a꞉꞉⟩ or ⟨a aꞏ a꞉⟩. Primary and secondary stress are e.g. ⟨á⟩ and ⟨à⟩. Voicelessness is e.g. ⟨ḁ⟩, as in the IPA. Creak, murmur, rhoticity et al. are as in the IPA.
Pullum & Ladusaw
According to Pullum & Ladusaw (1996), current Americanist usage is more-or-less as follows (no system has been standardized):
Vowels are inconsistent between languages. ï ë etc. may be used for unrounded central vowels, and the ⟨a⟩-based letters are poorly defined, with height and rounding confounded.
There are actually three heights of low front and back vowels. ā is also seen for a low back vowel.
Reduced (obscure) vowels are i̥ e̥ ḁ etc. There are also extra-high vowels ị ụ etc.
Bloch & Trager
Bloch & Trager (1942) proposed the following schema, which was never used. They use a single dot for central vowels and a dieresis to reverse backness. The only central vowels with their own letters are ⟨ɨ⟩, which already has a dot, and ⟨ᵻ⟩, which would not be distinct if formed with a dot.
Kurath (1939) is as follows. Enclosed in parentheses are rounded vowels. Apart from ⟨ʚ, ꭤ⟩ and some differences in alignment, it is essentially the IPA.
|High||i (y)||ɨ (ʉ)||ɯ (u)|
|Lower high||ɪ (ʏ)||ᵻ (ᵾ)||ɤ (ᴜ)|
|Higher mid||e (ø)||ɘ||(o)|
|Lower mid||ɛ (ʚ)||ɜ (ɞ)||ʌ|
Chomsky & Halle
Chomsky & Halle (1968) proposed the following schema, which was hardly ever used. In addition to the table, there was ⟨ə⟩ for an unstressed reduced vowel.
Diacritics are widely used in Americanist notation. Unlike the IPA, which seeks to use as few diacritics as possible, the Americanist notation uses a narrow set of symbols and then relies on diacritics to indicate a sound's phonetic value.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2008)
Historical charts of 1916
The vowel chart is based on the classification of H. Sweet. The high central vowels are differentiated by moving the centralizing dot to the left rather than with a cross stroke. IPA equivalents are given in a few cases that may not be clear.
|high||ï||᷸ı (= ˙ı)||i||ɩ̈||᷸ɩ (= ˙ɩ)||ɩ|
|Stops||Spirants||Affricates||Nasals||Laterals||Lateral Affricates||Rolled Consonants|
|pw||bw||ʙw||pwʽ||p̓w , pwǃ||ƕ||w||ƕǃ||pƕ||bw||pƕǃ||ᴍw||mw|
|p||b||ʙ||pʽ||p̓ , pǃ||φ||β||φǃ||pφ||bβ||pφǃ||ᴍ||m|
|t̯||d̯||ᴅ̯||t̯ʽ||t̯̓ , t̯ǃ||s̯||z̯||s̯ǃ||t̯s||d̯z||t̯sǃ||ɴ̯||n̯||ƚ̯ , ʟ̯||l̯||ƚ̯ǃ||t̯ƚ||d̯l||t̯ƚǃ||ʀ̯||r̯||ʀ̯ǃ|
|t||d||ᴅ||tʽ||t̓ , tǃ||s||z||sǃ||ts||dz||tsǃ||ɴ||n||ƚ , ʟ||l||ƚǃ||tƚ||dl||tƚǃ||ʀ||r||ʀǃ|
|Cerebral||ṭ||ḍ||ᴅ̣||ṭʽ||ṭ̓ , ṭǃ||ṣ||ẓ||ṣǃ||ṭs||ḍz||ṭsǃ||ɴ̣||ṇ||ƚ̣ , ʟ̣||ḷ||ƚ̣ǃ||ṭƚ||ḍl||ṭƚǃ||ʀ̣||ṛ||ʀ̣ǃ|
|τ̯||δ̯||Δ̯||τ̯ʽ||τ̯̓ , τ̯ǃ||σ̯||ζ̯||σ̯ǃ||τ̯σ||δ̯ζ||τ̯σǃ||ν̯||ν̯||ᴧ̯||λ̯||ᴧ̯ǃ||τ̯ᴧ||δ̯ᴧ||τ̯ᴧǃ|
|Dorsal||τ||δ||Δ||τʽ||τ̓ , τǃ||σ||ζ||σǃ||τσ||δζ||τσǃ||
|τ̣||δ̣||Δ̣||τ̣ʽ||τ̣̓ , τ̣ǃ||σ̣||ζ̣||σ̣ǃ||τ̣σ||��̣ζ||τ̣σǃ||
|(τy)||(δy)||(Δy)||(τyʽ)||(τ̓ , τyǃ)||cy||jy||cyǃ||tcy||djy||tcyǃ||(
|(ty)||(dy)||(ᴅy)||(tyʽ)||(t̓ , tyǃ)||c||j||cǃ||tc||dj||tcǃ||(ɴy)||(ny)||(ƚy , ʟy)||(ly)||(ƚyǃ)||(tƚy)||(dly)||(tƚyǃ)|
|(ṭy)||(ḍy)||(ᴅ̣y)||(ṭyʽ)||(ṭ̓ , ṭyǃ)||c̣||j̣||c̣ǃ||ṭc||ḍj||ṭcǃ||(ɴ̣y)||(ṇy)||(ƚ̣y , ʟ̣y)||(ḷy)||(ƚ̣yǃ)||(ṭƚy)||(ḍly)||(ṭƚyǃ)|
|k̯||g̯||ɢ̯||k̯ʽ||k̯̓ , k̯ǃ||x̯||γ̯||x̯ǃ||k̯x||g̯γ||k̯xǃ||Ŋ̯||ŋ̯||k̯ƚ||g̯l||k̯ƚǃ||Ρ̯||ρ̯||ρ̯ǃ|
|k||g||ɢ||kʽ||k̓ , kǃ||x||γ||xǃ||kx||gγ||kxǃ||Ŋ||ŋ||kƚ||gl||kƚǃ||Ρ||ρ||ρǃ|
|ḳ (q)||g̣||ɢ̣||ḳʽ||ḳ̓ , ḳǃ||x̣||γ̣||x̣ǃ||ḳx||g̣γ||ḳxǃ||Ŋ̣||ŋ̣||ḳƚ||g̣l||ḳƚǃ||Ρ̣||ρ̣||ρ̣ǃ|
|Glottal||ʼ||ʼʽ||ʽ , h||a (any
|Laryngeal||ʼ̣||ʼ̣ʽ||ḥ||(any vowel with laryngeal resonance)||ʼ̣ḥ|
- surd = voiceless; sonant = voiced; intermed. = partially voiced
- In the glottalized stop column, the phonetic symbol appearing on the left side (which is a consonant plus an overhead single quotation mark) represents a weakly glottalized stop (i.e. weakly ejective). The symbol on the right side is strongly glottalized (i.e. it is articulated very forcefully). Example: [k̓ ] = weakly glottalized, [kǃ] = strongly glottalized. (Cf. kʼ = [k] followed by glottal stop.) This convention is only shown for the glottalized stops, but may be used for any of the glottalized consonants.
- "Laryngeal" refers to either pharyngeal or epiglottal.
|glottalization||Cʼ (bʼ)||C!||Cʼ||Cʼ||C̓||Cʼ, Cˀ|
|length||V̄?||V̄||Vꞏ (V:)||Vꞏ (V:)||Vː (Vːː)|
- Phonetic transcription
- International Phonetic Alphabet
- English Phonetic Alphabet
- Uralic Phonetic Alphabet
- WIELD’s Recommended Americanist Transcription System
- Phonetic Symbol Guide, 2nd ed., p. 301–302
- P. W. Schmidt, P. G. Schmidt and P. J. Hermes, "Die Sprachlaute und ihre Darstellung in einem allgemeinen linguistischen Alphabet (Schluß) / Les sons du langage et leur représentation dans un alphabet linguistique général (Conclusion)", Anthropos, Bd. 2, H. 5. (1907), insert at page 1098
- Some fonts render these letters incorrectly. They should be topped with a haček.
- Although Anthropos specifies a bridge for lateral obstruents, it was more common at the time to use a tilde.
- The central vowels shown here do not appear in the main vowel charts, but occur in various illustrations.
- Kurath, Hans (1939). Handbook of the Linguistic Geography of New England. Brown University. p. 123.
- Boas, Goddard, Sapir & Kroeber (1916) Phonetic Transcription of Indian Languages: Report of Committee of American Anthropological Association. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 66.6. Chart is a fold-out behind the back cover that is not reproduced at this link.
- Mithun, Languages of Native North America, 1999, p. viii.
- Sturtevant, Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 17, 1978, p. 12ff
- Abercrombie, David. (1991). Daniel Jones's teaching. In D. Abercrombie, Fifty years in phonetics: Selected papers (pp. 37–47). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (Original work published 1985 in V. A. Fromkin (Ed.), Phonetic linguistics: Essays in honor of Peter Ladefoged, Orlando, Academic Press, Inc.).
- Albright, Robert W. (1958). The International Phonetic Alphabet: Its background and development. International journal of American linguistics (Vol. 24, No. 1, Part 3); Indiana University research center in anthropology, folklore, and linguistics, publ. 7. Baltimore. (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 1953).
- American Anthropological Society [Boas, Franz; Goddard, Pliny E.; Sapir, Edward; & Kroeber, Alfred L.]. (1916). Phonetic transcription of Indian languages: Report of committee of American Anthropological Association. Smithsonian miscellaneous collections (Vol. 66, No. 6). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution (American Anthropological Society).
- Bloomfield, Leonard; & Bolling George Melville. (1927). What symbols shall we use? Language, 3 (2), 123-129.
- Boas, Franz. (1911). Introduction. In F. Boas (Ed.), Handbook of American Indian languages (pp. 5–83). Bureau of American Ethnology bulletin (No. 40). Washington. (Reprinted 1966).
- Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
- Clark, John; & Yallop, Colin. (1995). An introduction to phonetics and phonology (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19452-5.
- Odden, David. (2005). Introducing phonology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82669-1 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-53404-6 (pbk).
- Goddard, Ives. (1996). Introduction. In I. Goddard (Ed.), Handbook of North American Indians: Languages (Vol. 17, pp. 1–16). (W. C. Sturtevant, General Ed.). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. ISBN 0-16-048774-9.
- Herzog, George; Newman, Stanley S.; Sapir, Edward; Swadesh, Mary Haas; Swadesh, Morris; Voegelin, Charles F. (1934). Some orthographic recommendations. American Anthropologist, 36 (4), 629-631. doi:10.1525/aa.1934.36.4.02a00300
- Hill, Kenneth C. (1988). [Review of Phonetic symbol guide by G. K. Pullum & W. Ladusaw]. Language, 64 (1), 143-144.
- International Phonetic Association. (1949). The principles of the International Phonetic Association, being a description of the International Phonetic Alphabet and the manner of using it, illustrated by texts in 51 languages. London: University College, Department of Phonetics.
- Kemp, J. Alan. (1994). Phonetic transcription: History. In R. E. Asher & J. M. Y. Simpson (Eds.), The encyclopedia of language and linguistics (Vol. 6, pp. 3040–3051). Oxford: Pergamon.
- Langacker, Ronald W. (1972). Fundamentals of linguistic analysis. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- MacMahon, Michael K. C. (1996). Phonetic notation. In P. T. Daniels & W. Bright (Ed.), The world's writing systems (pp. 821–846). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0.
- Maddieson, Ian. (1984). Patterns of sounds. Cambridge studies in speech science and communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
- Pike, Kenneth L. (1943). Phonetics: A critical analysis of phonetic theory and a technic for the practical description of sounds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- Powell, John W. (1880). Introduction to the Study of Indian languages, with words, phrases, and sentences to be collected (2nd Ed.). Washington: Government Printing Office.
- Pullum, Geoffrey K.; & Laduslaw, William A. (1986). Phonetic symbol guide. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-68532-2.
- Sturtevant, William C. (Ed.). (1978–present). Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 1-20). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution. (Vols. 1-3, 16, 18-20 not yet published).