Is it important to teach the phoenetic alphabet?
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The IPA is all about pronunciation, but pronunciation is more than you maybe think it is. Think about it; the IPA is an alphabet independant of any one particular language.
Phonetic analysis requires the transcription of the sounds used to make up a spoken language. These transcriptions must clearly and accurately describe any and all sounds used in the language being transcribed with no contamination of the transcriber's accent (think about how English is written and the lack of phonetic logic within the written language; such mess is the opposite of what any linguist wants to end up with). Therefore, a writing system, independent of any one particular language, capable of describing any and every sound that could possibly be produced by the human vocal tract, was needed so that any person, anywhere in the world could understand the sounds being described in the transcription.
If a researcher wants to see if there is a link between the half-long O used in Minnesota and the O used in Icelandic they can pull up transcriptions of regional speakers and compare the transcriptions.
Long story short ( :D )the IPA is essential to the scientific description and recording of human language.
Are there book/CD combos that can be used for self-instruction?
Where it becomes more tricky is combining those sounds into words, and the unfortunate fact that institutions use short-cuts in language instruction, and sometimes it gets pretty political. This is not the fault of the IPA (just as carbon dioxide emissions can't be blamed on the periodic table). This becomes a human issue.
Here's an anecdotal account of my experience:
>chamekke: You should start your search here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/IPA/ipa.html
And shame on me! I didn't realize they had updated it again in 2005!
(By the way, is anyone else on this thread continually having to shake themselves for "reading" IPA as India Pale Ale? Blush.)
I was a linguistics major, so I actually have the opposite problem. Significantly dorkier.
Icemuff - many thanks for that link. I'm going to grab an IPA some time and spend a little time listening to some of those files. This is something I'd like to understand better.
Did you ever use the IPA euphemistically? I had a friend that was a Linguistics major and we would say (inappropriate, yes, but so rarely understood by others that it never mattered) things to each other like "I've got a bilabial fricative that'll give you a voiced plosive you never thought possible!"*
Just thought I'd see if it was just us.
*Jokingly, of course!
When I was in high school, my Latin teacher often used IPA-- I was the only one who understood!
It is also very useful in choirs, especially with foreign language pieces.