Wednesday, 15 December 2010

OED's new transcription system

In December Oxford University Press launched the newly designed online version of OED. The editorial board (one of its members is the pronunciation consultant Clive Upton) re-designed, among other things, the way the pronunciation of a word is displayed:

The screenshot shows the pronunciation of the word 'incomprehensibility'.
One of the new features is the fact that one can click on the pronunciation and a window pops up which displays the 'meanings' of the transcription symbols. Here's an example:
There are three columns. The left column contains the phonetic symbols; the center column displays a a letter or two intended to represent the sound and the right column indicates one or two model words.
What's missing, by the way, is the secondary stress on the 2nd syllable of 'incomprehensibility'.

I'm going to list all symbols for vowel sounds in a separate blog entry, and the consonants will follow in yet another post.

PS: See also Jack Windsor Lewis's blog #319.


  1. I think another secondary stress on the fourth syllable would be a good idea. And I wonder why they chose /n/ rather than /ŋ/ for the second symbol. Both are possible of course, but I reckon the second is more likely.

    Anyway, it's a vast improvement on the mess they had before.

  2. Where the "in-" is transparently a separate morpheme, I always use /n/, personally.

    I would agree with John M in putting the secondary stress on the fourth rather than the second syllable.

  3. For me, ŋ would be the usual form

  4. Can anyone cast any light on the rendering of some characters in the revised online OED? This is from the source for 'ye' (conj. and adv.):
    OE e, ME ȝe, ME Orm. ȝa. I have tried various browsers, but the first OE character is not displaying correctly. Is it a different form of yogh?

  5. @Alex Went: Yes, it's the yogh symbol.