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IPA FOR LAKOTA

IPA stands for the International Phonetic Alphabet; a special selection of characters devised by linguists in order to represent every sound, or phone, of all the world's languages. Of course, since many languages share the same sounds only about 100 letters are required, especially since the IPA makes use of diacritics. Just a tiny fraction of the IPA is needed to record the Lakota language in particular.

The characters of the IPA derive mostly from European scripts since they are alphabets as opposed to abjads, syllabaries or other systems not suitable for the discussion of individual sounds. Further, many of the major world languages such as English, French and Spanish are written with the Latin alphabet, along with the majority of aboriginal languages from the Americas, Africa and Australia.

All sounds can be mapped out in charts for convenience and consonants are graphed according to two parameters: their place of articulation (the part of your mouth most associated with the sound) and their manner of articulation (the way in which you use that part of your mouth to produce a sound).

For instance, P is similar to M in the sense that both of these sounds both require the lips to move. This would mean their place of articulation is the same. P and M are classified under labials, which means 'lip' in Latin.

In addition, P and K are also similar in that you cannot extend their durations for a long period of time. You can keep making the sound M for many seconds, but when you make a P or K you cannot continue the sound. This suggests that P and K are similar in terms of their manner of articulation. P and K fall under the category of stops because shortly after you start making them you are forced to quit.

With this in mind, each individual sound is identified by both its place and its manner. Thus, since P is a labial like M, but it is also a stop like K, P alone is called a labial stop.

The following chart identifies all of the IPA symbols needed to transcribe Lakota consonants:

labial

dental

alveolar

palatal

velar

uvular

glottal

stops

nasal

m
n

unaspirated

p
t
k
ʕ

aspirated

ph~pχ
th~tχ
h~tʃχ
kh~kχ

ejective

p’
t’
tʃ’
k’

fricatives

voiceless

s
ʃ
χ
h

voiced

z
ʒ
ʁ

(ejective)

s’
ʃ’
χ’

approximant

w
l
j

Notice that on this chart the places of articulation are ordered from the front-most area of the mouth to the back-most area.

Places of Articulation

   • labial: sounds made using both of the lips
 
   • dental: sounds made using both of the teeth
 
   • alveolar: sounds made using the front of the tongue and the alveolar ridge (the roof of the mouth right before the top row of teeth)
 
   • palatal: sounds made using the flattened, middle of the tongue and the palate
 
   • velar: sounds made using the back of the tongue and the velum (the muscles in the back of the throat)
 
   • uvular: sounds made using the uvula (hanging tab in the back of the throat)
 
   • glottal: sounds made using the glottis (space between vocal chords)

Manners of Articulation

   • stop: sounds that cannot be continued
 
   • unaspirated: sounds that are not accompanied by a small puff of air
 
   • aspirated: sounds that are accompanied by small puff of air
 
   • ejective: stops that are glottalized
 
   • fricative: sounds made by a making buzz-like or static-like noise
 
   • nasal: sounds made by directing airflow out through the nasal cavity (the sinuses)
 
   • lateral: sounds made by alinging the tongue vertically
 
   • approximant: sounds made by nearing (but not quite touching) a place of articulation

[χ], [pχ], [tχ], and [kχ] are classified as uvular fricatives named after the 'uvula'.

[s’], [t&643;’] and [χ’] are in parentheses because not all linguists consider them ejectives. [g] is in parentheses because it is considered a voiced variant of /k/ since its occurrence is predictable.

Vowels in IPA are graphed according to a different set of parameters. At minimum, languages must have at least three vowels, which contrast from one another based on they are produced in the mouth. At the very least, a language will contain these three vowels:

front

central

back

high

i
u

low

a

Part of what changes the way vowels sound is the mouth's amount of open space, and, where that open space is distributed. What determines such things is the position of the tongue. Thus, we can pinpoint the place where a vowel is being produced in the mouth as long as we know two things about the tongue; 1) its height; whether the tongue is located in the top or the bottom of the mouth, and 2) its backness; whether the tongue is located in the back or front of the mouth.

For instance, in producing an "ah" sound the tongue is relatively low, so a is called a low vowel. In contrast, when producing the "oo" sound the tongue is relatively high, leaving empty space in the bottom of the mouth. This is why u is called a high vowel.

In addition, the tongue is further back in the mouth when you produce "oo" than when you produce "ee," so u is additionally a back vowel. All things considered, u is a high-back vowel, i is a high-front vowel, and a can vary from being a low-front vowel to a low-central vowel to a low-back vowel.

The following is chart summarizes the IPA symbols used to transcribe Hawaiian vowels. In addition to the High and Low categories, Hawaiian (like English) has a pair of vowels that lie between, which we will call Mid.

front

central

back

high

i
u

mid

e
o

low

a

Sometimes high vowels are called close vowels, and low vowels are called open vowels. Also, IPA users put a colon - consisting of two triangles - after vowels if they are long; thus aa would be transcribed as [aː] in IPA if in the same syllable. If in different syllables aa would be transcribed [aa].

You may have been wondering about the slashes and brackets. Well, right angled brackets, / /, or square brackets, [ ], are placed around the IPA transcriptions, except in tables. Whereas / / are only put around sounds that cannot be predicted in the language, like /k/ or /a/, [ ] are put around any sound, like [g] or [æ]. Angled brackets, < > are put around orthography like <�> or <ŋ>.

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Last Updated: 04/29/2011