Thursday, 4 April 2013

IPA 1900

While preparing my new lecture course on English phonology for the upcoming term I found an online copy of the Exposé des Principes de l’Association Phonétique Internationale published in Bourg-La-Reine in 1900. Here are two short texts to be found on p. 14, one of them transcribed by Henry Sweet in "Anglais du Sud", the other by Wilhelm Viëtor in "Allemand". The symbol set is the one proposed by the API/IPA in that year. 

Some of the pronunciations of English words sound fairly old-fashioned and stilted (as do parts of the German text), others haven't changed much - or at all, e.g. your, generally, translation.


  1. Nice find. The original texts seem to be virtually identical, the differences are possibly preferences by the translator (for example, in the very last line, Sweet's transcript refers to "uneducated people", while Vietor's refers to "adults"). The Lloyd transcript (your next post) has "illiterate", which is more specific in that context of teaching non-readers to read.

    Which of Sweet's pronunciations do you consider old-fashioned? Aspirated w in "which" and "when" stand out, and Lloyd has them too in his northern English transcript. I would have guessed that [ʍ] was a matter of style in England around 1900, rather than a feature of everyday speech. As choirboys we were expected to sing [ʍ], but never in an adult choir. We were taught in phonology in the 1950s that the /w/ vs /ʍ/ contrast still existed in some Scottish and North American dialects.

    Sweet has u in "children", which might indicate a dark allophone of /ɪ/ before dark l, or simply be a misprint.

    Sweet has examples of linking r, but avoids intrusive r (just one possible situation, at the beginning of the fourth paragraph).

  2. PS. I've just seen u in children in Jones' EPD (1957).

  3. @Sidney: The variant pron with an /u/ is still listed in the EPD of 1977 (= 14th ed.), but disappeared in the next ed., when Roach, Hartman and Setter took over the lexicographic baton.

  4. There's a detailed description of Sweet's transcription by Jack Windsor Lewis to be found here: