Thursday, 10 September 2009

pilcrow

I have recently been reading Pilcrow, by Adam Mars-Jones. It’s a novel in which the central character and narrator is a severely disabled boy. That may sound a bit dispiriting, but the novel is full of imaginative insights and empathy, and I enjoyed it greatly.
However at one point the author indulges in some phonetic terminology that doesn’t quite work. The narrator thinks that a fellow patient, Sarah, calls her mother Muzzie. But it turns out that in fact she calls her Mummy. The misapprehension arose because on one occasion she was being lifted back into her wheelchair, and her mother
must have been squeezing Sarah’s rib-cage in a funny sort of way, forcing the air out just as it got mixed up with an emotional sob … and then it emerged as a sort of distorted sigh. … the middle part of the word came out as a sighing ‘ZZzz’. With that extra squeeze of Sarah’s squeeze-box the consonant was mutated. A bilabial dental came out as a voiced alveolar fricative, and that’s how Muzzie got her name.

Oh dear. The ‘bilabial dental’ ought to be a ‘bilabial nasal’.
A real bilabial dental would be a simultaneously articulated [p͡t̪], [b͡d̪] or [m͡n̪]. (I’m afraid those overstruck symbols are going to constitute a severe test of your browser’s rendering capabilities.)
A pilcrow, by the way, is the sign ¶.

8 comments:

  1. A real bilabial dental would be a simultaneously articulated [p͡t̪], [b͡d̪] or [m͡n̪]. (I’m afraid those overstruck symbols are going to constitute a severe test of your browser’s rendering capabilities.)

    That's what I though, but I'm impressed at how very well they're rendered on my computer—I couldn't've expected better from any automated system, I think. At least, until someone's going to create a font system that can dynamically generate the tiebar glyph so that it's the right width over both a relatively narrow "pt" and a relatively wide "mn".

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  2. The symbols did fine in Google Reader, but when I came here to check the comments they were all messed up.

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  3. Google Reader and Google Chrome are fabulous.

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  4. I'm looking at them in Firefox 3.0 for Linux, and they look great, modulo the tiebar issue, and a very slight displacement of the bridge under t to the left and the ones under d and n to the right, probably because the bridges are precisely centered under letters that are themselves somewhat left-right asymmetrical. Chrome for Linux looks the same.

    But when I paste the text into gedit, a Notepad analogue, and look at them in Courier New, I get horrible results: there is whitespace under the full width tie bar, and the bridge is neatly centered under the right bracket!

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  5. Google Reader and Google Chrome are fabulous.

    Opera and, well, Opera, are even more fabulous. :-)

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  6. I can't say how well they render in SeaMonkey 1.1.17, because I do not know how they /should/ look, but if more expert readers would care to comment, a screenshot may be at http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/Chaa006/Phonetics#5381236609548514370

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  7. I read your posts in Thunderbird (2.0.0.23 currently) and the symbols look fine. (But in Firefox 3.5, this text box sucks, I cannot go back and edit without deleting my text.)

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  8. I love to read novels. I haven’t read this book so for me it is a brand new experience but for my fellow friends they got it very interesting. I found "Pilcrow" enough to warrant a more positive recommendation. Thank you so much for sharing more information about this book.

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