Types of transcription

A transcription, which is a visual system of notation of the sound structure of speech, is also a generalization of a great variety of sounds that are uttered by speakers of a given language.

The extent of the generalization may vary. One can classify the sounds into phonemes disregarding the different degrees of aspiration, labialization, length, palatalization and other phonologically irrelevant features of the sounds. On the other hand, one can differentiate between all those features and classify them as well. Consequently, there may be different types of transcriptions depending upon the degree of exactness required.

If it is accuracy only in the representation of the phonemes of the language that is required, the transcription should provide each phoneme with a distinctive symbol to avoid ambiguity. Such a transcription is generally called phonemic, or broad, transcription. It contains as many symbols as there are phonemes in the language. The phonemic data is usually enclosed between virgules (also called diagonals)--: /t/.

If it is exactness in the differentiation of the allophones of each phoneme that is required, the transcription should provide either different symbols for each allophone, or introduce special marks to represent the different features of the allophones. The former would increase the number of symbols considerably, and that would be great difficulties for those who use it. Scholars usually make use of both ways: they provide some of the typical allophones with distinctive symbols and introduce special marks {called "d'arritic marks") to denote the different features the allophones are characterized by- such a transcription is called a phonetic, or narrow transcription The modern phonetic transcription that is most widely used now is the International Phonetic Transcription devised by the International Phonetic Association in 1904. This transcription is a phonetic alphabet which may be applied to most of the languages. That is why it contains symbols that stand for phonemes in different languages. E.g. /эе / {as in "bag"), /y/ (close lip rounded/i/in German "u"), /o/ etc. For this reason the transcription is often referred to as the "u n i v e r s a l transcription" of the IPA (International Phonetic Association).

One of the principles of this transcription is to use the fewest possible symbols of the simplest possible shape. Most of the symbols it uses are letters of the Latin alphabet. Besides, it contains a series of diacritic marks.