Ask any English speaker how he pronounces the vowel “a”. There are about seven or more correct answers, though I can’t think of them all right now. Consider the various “a” sounds here:
What day 1 does Mary 2 plan 3 to eat 4 the awesome 5 avocado 6,7 ?
I'd insert before the ‘?’: "outside the ca
In the early International Phonetic Alphabet, a French invention credited mostly to Paul Edouard Passy
, the sounds italicized & numbered above would have been indicated, at an intermediate stage of development between the World Wars [*
], by these distinct characters, in which no modifications to typographic style are allowed [†]:
, exemplifying the English long-a
, whose sound is signified in the Francocentric IPA by its "ei" diphthong (consider pronunciation of Latin "Dei"
at various speeds).
ɹi (U+25B U+259; ɛ ə).
n (U+E6 æ).
t (‘i’ U+02D0; ‘i’ ː: the IPA triangular colon, which the IPA uses instead of the familiar macron to signify the long
pronumciation of a vowel, altho' common screen resolutions make it difficult to distinguish from the ordinary colon
sʌm (U+0254 U+02D0; ɔ ː: where the letter apparently a turned-c
is actually the vowel open-o
) (also, altho' not under discussion, the short-u
’: U+028C ʌ).
do (U+E6 æ U+0251 U+02D0; ɑ ː).
l (both schwa
: U+0259; ə), as if an alternative English spelling were "c'thedr'l" (also, altho' not under discussion, the voiceless-th
: U+03B8 θ, which Germanophiles & Celtophiles probably prefer to replace by their runic thorn
’, as assimilated into the Latin alphabet: U+FE þ).
And to provide further frustration among learners of English, the final ‘a
’ in "avoca
do" is pronounced differently from the final ‘a
’ in "avoca
tion"; the latter uses the ‘a’ sound that in English is its long-a
(i.e., the sound signified in the IPA by its diphthong
: Cassell's New Fr.-En. En.-Fr. Dictionary
, (c)1930. The International Phonetic Alphabet
of the time, then often called "Passy's Alphabet", is listed with examples, on p. x--xi. I verified the examples quoted above by referring to entries in its En.-Fr. section. The IPA underwent later episodes of revision and update, e.g., 1993 and 1996 (respectively), and maybe even early in the 21st
Note †: No modifications in styles
of IPA characters were allowed because the alphabet was implemented by low-tech methods such as turning or mutilating printers' movable types
(e.g., ‘ɑ’ being produced by cutting the ascender off a ‘d’). At the time of the reference work above, the distinct shape that might be called the crested-a
, common in printing English (i.e., the ‘a’ in upright
Arial or Helvetica, but not all other sans-serif fonts
), was not used by the IPA to signify any sound of ‘a’ in English, but it was used for some sounds of ‘a’ in French.