42 native or common elementary sounds

Does this study about the 42 elementary English sound bring us further? F. e. in the (classification) rubrication of the vowel sounds.
The document is larger than 2 mb so I can’t upload it.






Kind regards

Jan van den Heuvel

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  1. Dear Carlos

    I found the articule in this book in http://www.forgottenbooks.com

    It is 21,2 MB and i am not allowed due to copyrights to publish it.

    But you would find it easily yourself. I have a subscription on Forgotten books of  app. 10 euros a month.

    I could email the link in my Dropbox account to you if you wish. 
    In my my opinion there should be some kind of ‘transponationtable’ for all relevant sounds and Gregg vowel signs. This would almost eliminate serious comment from the side of Pitman against Gregg, because I read somewhere that Gregg was considered too loosely.

    kind regards

    Jan van den Heuvel NL


    somewhere I read that Japanese has 42 vowel sounds, but what about English?

  2. It is not really correct to say that English has 42 sounds. There are basically three objections to this claim.

    First, like all languages, English has phonemes, or sounds that native speakers recognize as distinct. For instance, we distinguish the sh sound in "shale" from the s sound in "sale". Each dialect of English has more than 30 phonemes, but not as many as 40.

    So here's the second objection: Different dialects have different numbers of phonemes. If you want to count the phonemes in a language, you need to specify which dialect you're looking at, e.g. Queen's English or General American.

    The third objection is that each phoneme has phonetic variants, also known as allophones. For instance, the a in "mat" differs from the a in "mad" (the latter is longer, in the literal, temporal sense) and the t in "top" differs from the t in "stop" (the former is aspirated, the latter unaspirated). Native speakers are typically unaware of the allophones, but sense that the use of the wrong allophone results in a strange or foreign-like pronunciation.The total number of allophones of all phonemes in any dialect of English greatly exceeds 42.

    The author of the book you refer to does not seem to understand the difference between phonemes and allophones. Some of the vowel sounds he lists for a and o are allophones, not phonemes in their own right.

    An alphabetic writing system for a language should concentrate on phonemes, not their allophones. This is what both Pitman and Gregg do. Both also recognize that the phonemes do not always have to be indicated precisely; for instance, both commonly use the same symbol for the s and z sounds. As for vowels, Gregg gangs the (perceived monotonic) vowels together into four groups, each group indicated by one symbol, but with diacritical marks that can be used when necessary. Pitman gangs its vowels into three groups which it indicates by position writing, again with diacritics that can be used when necessary. Position writing has the weakness that only one vowel per outline can be indicated in this way.

    Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Both Pitman and Gregg have proven themselves to be worthy systems. The mud that their adherents used to sling at each other should be of no consequence now. In particular, Gregg's vowel system works fine.

  3. Addendum: Yes, I know that Gregg's diacritics are true diacritics, while Pitman is an abjad, whose diacritics are actually vowel letters.

  4. Also a. correction: Where I wrote monotonic the word should actually be monophthongal. Sorry–I'm a mathematician, and monotonic comes trippingly off the fingers.

  5. Thank you very much for your interesting analysis and remarks that are for me encouraging to proceed with Gregg.

    Somewhat these remarks remind me of the problem the rabbi’s must have encountered when vocalising the Hebrew (OT) according to the Masoretic system even with differences between poetic and prosaic  writings.

    I would like to attach a picture out of a study book to show more exactly what I mean, but somehow this is difficult to do.



  6. Jan,

    Thanks for your reply.  I've studied a small amount of Biblical Hebrew, so I'm aware of the Masoretic system. In fact, although the word abjad comes from Arabic and is a reference to the Arabic alphabet, the abjad that comes to my mind when I encounter the word is Hebrew. An abjad is a writing system in which the consonants are signified by letters and the vowels by diacritics, so Hebrew, Arabic and Pitman are all examples of abjads. (Of course, the Masoretic system is more complicated than that, since it also contains accents, punctuation marks and chanting tones.)

    Gregg intentionally developed his system to follow the standard English phonic system taught in schools. Because of that, the vowel system is reasonably stable over dialectal variants, as well as over grammatical changes of vowel quality. For instance, in Gregg, "bath" and "bathe" both contain an a, whereas in Pitman the vowels are light a and heavy e, respectively.

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