Monday 6 April 2009

Regulations for postgraduates

Here, from Speculative Grammarian clvi:2, are some Guidelines for the Behavior of Graduate Students, attributed to the author Felicity Conditions “for distribution by the International Phonetic Association”. I think this may have been published at the beginning of April. (Thanks to Paul Carter for bringing it to my attention.)
ʘ ʘ ʘ ʘ ʘ
1. The IPA symbol for a bilabial click is not called “the cervix,” even if it really looks like one.
2. Students must not giggle every time someone says “labial.”
3. Students are not allowed to start a letter-writing campaign demanding enfranchisement for voiceless phonemes.
4. Students must remember that the IPA only covers the sounds the human mouth can make.
5. Students are not allowed to ask the “cute” TA to produce difficult phonemes for them... slowly... over and over again.
6. “Only prats use Praat” was never funny, and still isn’t. Especially if the faculty use Praat.
ʄ ʄ ʄ ʄ ʄ
7. There is absolutely no mystical significance to the fact that the IPA symbol for a voiced palatal implosive slightly resembles the helix symbol from the TV show Heroes.
8. Students are not allowed to erase everything on the vowel chart besides /a, e, i, o, and u/ and insist that the TA “teach the controversy.”
9. Students are not allowed to turn in papers written entirely in IPA.
10. Students may not be excused from discussions of tonal languages because they are tone-deaf.
11. There is no diacritic for “drunken voice.”
12. Students are not allowed to color in the “blank” areas on the vowel spectrograms.
13. Students are not allowed to convince wide-eyed, trusting first-years that the nasal ingressive voiceless velar trill will be officially added to the IPA chart next year.
aɪ æktʃəli fiːl ə bɪt sæd əbaʊt kəndɪʃn nʌmbə naɪn. ɑːɡjuəbli, ɪt maɪt bi ə ɡʊd test əv stjuːdnts əbɪləti ɪf ɪt wəz tʃeɪndʒd tu
9'. Every student must turn in at least one paper written entirely in IPA.


  1. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing

  2. [aɪ əɡɹi wɪθ kəndɪʃn nʌmbɚ naɪn pɹaɪm. du ðeɪ hæv tʊ du ɪt ɒn ə wɝd pɹɒsɛsɚ]? And what do you do about things like question marks? Use phonemic transcription plus punctuation? What is acceptable?

  3. A friend of mine who teaches linguistics once declared in her Facebook status that she wanted 'to know what the appropriate response is when your virgin-eyed first-year students have apparently never seen a larynx before'.

  4. Number 3, 4 and 13 are really funny!

    I was wondering if the IPA thought about other human sounds apart from the ones the mouth can make before... Some trills... hahaha

  5. Apparently the proposal for the symbol for the nasal ingressive voiceless velar trill is an extra wide "o" symbol with an umlaut ¨ inside.


  6. In response to Jongseong's point about the appearance of the larynx: my first attempts at fiberscope pictures of my vocal folds in the early 1970's were sent back by the Kodak labs on the grounds that they would not process obscene material.

  7. The difficulty is that papers written entirely in IPA would reflect the speaker's accent, which could be quite tricky to read if it's remote from your own. (There are way too many simplified-spelling proponents who cannot be made to see this.) Traditional orthography, rebarbative as it is, is at least conveniently cross-accentual.


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