Cornell Linguistics: IPA in action

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I was pleasantly surprised to see this banner on the Cornell campus:

I wonder how many visitors to the beautiful Cornell campus know what to make of the writing on the bottom of the banner.


Selected readings


  1. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 11:11 am

    Was this banner outside Morrill Hall? It’s good to see the Department of Linguistics getting some public acknowledgment. When I was an undergraduate, linguistics was considered fairly obscure, even in the College of Arts and Sciences.

    People may not be familiar with the IPA, but I suspect many visitors are familiar with dictionary-entry pronunciation guides and would recognize the general intent of the symbols.

  2. Victor Mair said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 11:21 am

    Yes, Barbara, it was outside Morrill Hall.

  3. Lynne Murphy said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 12:09 pm

    But why is there a line from the letter N to the stress mark and not to the [n]? Linguistics v graphic design.

  4. Chris Button said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 12:27 pm

    Probably a good choice not to mark the syllable break in “guistics”. That could have provoked some debate …

    I’m firmly in the “guist.ics” camp.

  5. Philip Taylor said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 1:47 pm

    … whilst I would go for “guis·tics”, primarily on the basis that I can prolong "guis" as long as I wish, but "tics" is for me a clearly separate element.

  6. Dwight Williams said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 1:50 pm

    I remember being reminded of the IPA every time I opened up one volume or another of the family's copy of Collier's Encyclopedia. I may not have always made the connection to the IPA, but I learned to understand the pronunciation "coding" at work.

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 12, 2022 @ 1:57 pm

    The hoarse-horse (a/k/a NORTH-FORCE) merger occurred somewhat more recently in Upstate New York than in many other parts of the U.S. I have no idea whether they've got the first syllable on the right side of the distinction speakers without that merger would (or historically would have) put it on. It is reasonably probable given when and where she grew up that my maternal grandmother (whom I must have heard utter the word "Cornell" on multiple occasions, as she was an alumna) did not have the merger, but I alas did not do good phonological fieldwork while listening to her before her death in 1989 so I don't know whether her "Cornell" would have had her NORTH vowel or her FORCE vowel.

  8. Olaf Husby said,

    August 13, 2022 @ 2:40 am

    Why isn’t used instead of the form with two circles?

  9. Olaf Husby said,

    August 13, 2022 @ 2:42 am

    I tried to focus on “g”, but it disappeared.

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    August 13, 2022 @ 5:27 am

    The font chosen, Olaf. The shape of a minuscule "g" varies considerably with font, and the font in the poster looks very much like Garamond Premier Pro to me.

  11. JOHN S ROHSENOW said,

    August 13, 2022 @ 9:23 pm

    It was embarrassing for me when I was teaching intro ling 101 and in the phonetic chart in
    Victoria Fromkin's text had the printed "form with two circles" for the voiced velar top in-
    stead of the correct IPA [g] form.

  12. Philip Taylor said,

    August 14, 2022 @ 4:50 am

    John — at, John Wells states that :

    ɡ 609 0261 vd velar plosive
    (but the IPA has ruled that an ordinary g is also acceptable)

    In the cited text (but not as rendered here) the second "g" (termed 'an ordinary g') has the "two circles" form.

  13. Scott P. said,

    August 14, 2022 @ 10:34 am

    When is some enterprising linguist brewer going to come up with the IPA IPA?

  14. Brandon Berg said,

    August 17, 2022 @ 7:59 pm

    The sign on the J-Akasaka Building in the Akasaka neighborhood of Tokyo has the pronunciation of J written out in IPA, as seen here:

    Mostly IPA, anyway. I'm not so sure about the acute accent.

  15. Jerry Packard said,

    August 17, 2022 @ 8:14 pm

    Having visited Morrill Hall in May, I can report that the banner had not yet been erected. As a proud graduate of said program, I can say that the IPA rendering of the dept name would be a pretty normal event.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    August 18, 2022 @ 7:56 pm


  17. Philip Taylor said,

    August 19, 2022 @ 5:57 am

    "Mostly IPA, anyway. I'm not so sure about the acute accent" — could it be a tone marker (high rising tone) rather than an acute accent ? My 1949 edition of The Principles of the International Phonetic Association has just such an accent in the final column at the bottom of the 2-page pull-out spread (revised 1979), under "Stress, Tone (Pitch)", where it gives the gloss for that symbol as "high rising".

  18. Victor Mair said,

    August 19, 2022 @ 4:23 pm

    From John Whitman:

    Another banner at Cornell:

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