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Domenico Felaco – IK6QGE

domenico.ikseiqge@tiscali.it

QSO AND PHONETIC TRANSCRIPTION



The QSOs in foreign languages

When I
am involved in a QSO in a foreign language, I find it helpful to have in front of me a list containing the sentences that I will probably hear from other hams and those that I will need for the answers.
This list should be a kind of handbook available at a glance, containing the few dozen phrases that are used in most QSOs
and concerning call signs, names, QTHs, signals, equipment, QSL cards, greetings and little else.
Of course, the list must contain also the Italian translation of the words and phrases that I will probably use and should also have some pronunciation notes, both to facilitate the understanding of what I hear and to allow me to get an idea
on the pronunciation of what I'm going to say.
We are just going to analyse, below, the way such a list can be prepared,
taking for granted the possibility of finding somewhere the phrases to be used in the various stages of the QSO and reserving, once and for all, the necessary attention to the problems that arise when you try to write down the pronunciation of words.

Writing down the pronunciation

If we decide to write down our pronunciation notes using the symbols of the Italian alphabet, we soon realize that we'll never be able to do it. Even with Italian words,
some difficulties are immediately met when using the graphic symbols representing several different sounds (open or close "e", open or close "o", "g" as in "gatto" or as in "gelo", "c" as in "cane" or as in "cena" and so on).
We can imagine what happens when we try to write down the pronunciation of words belonging to languages that require the production of sounds that are never used in Italian.
To
provide a simple example, let's consider the definite article the in English. Let's suppose we know its pronunciation and want to write it down. How can we do it? Using the symbols of the Italian alphabet, we will probably be forced to write the [de]. (Let's take note that from now on we will propose in italics the words written in the language they belong to, and in brackets the pronunciation).
However, if we ask an Englishman to read the pronunciation note [de] and ask him to tell us the word it refers to, we would hardly be answered that it's the article
the.
The point is that we do not have the symbols needed to write down the correct pronunciation of English words. We'd need a larger alphabet containing the symbols required to represent all the sounds that can be produced by human beings in any language.
Some professors of linguistics studied this problem and decided, at the end of the nineteenth century, to
found the International Phonetic Association in order to elaborate an alphabet that contained a symbol for each sound, without ambiguities and approximations. Of course, they spoke as linguists do and, like all specialists, had a specific jargon made of "phonemes", "allophones", "plosive", "palatal", "rolled" and so on. However, this does not matter to us. We will continue to say that we need graphic symbols to represent in writing the sounds which may be found in the words we want to use.
In short, this International Phonetic Association produced,
at the end, its alphabet and called it International Phonetic Alphabet.
If one looked at the extended form of this alphabet, would surely be worried along at the idea of using it to take pronunciation notes for a QSO.
Actually, the matter may be much simpler. We will use almost always the Italian symbols that we already know and will add only about thirty ones to eliminate ambiguities and to represent the sounds that are not used in our language.
Ultimately, we will learn to write the pronunciation of the English word the as [ə] and not as [de] and we will know exactly how to read our note.

International Phonetic Alphabet

We will see that writing pronunciation notes is not that difficulty we can imagine. For n
ow, though, let's try to eliminate some possible confusion: the words written using the alphabet of any language are one matter while pronunciation notes written in square brackets (or between bars) using the International Phonetic Alphabet are quite a different matter. In short, we could use the International Phonetic Alphabet to write down the pronunciation of words of Arabic or Russian or Chinese or whatever other language and we could pronounce them perfectly without claiming, as a result, that we know Arabic or Russian or Chinese.

Reduced International Phonetic Alphabet

For our purposes, we can
simply ignore all the symbols that represent sounds belonging to languages that we will probably never use in our QSOs. We must pay, however, a special attention to the symbols used to write down the pronunciation of the sounds that compose the English words, which are certainly the most frequently used in international radio contacts.

Vowels

We can simplify, where possible, the list of vowels and use the symbols of the Italian alphabet (a, i, u) to which we only add:

[e] close e () as in the Italian word velo [velo];
[ε] open e () as in the Italian word cartello [kar'tεllɔ];
[
] intermediate sound between a and e as in the English word map [mp];
[o] close o as in the Italian word Roma ['roma];
[ɔ] open
o as in the Italian word cotto [cɔtto] or in the English word golf [gɔlf];
[y] i pronounced with the lips protruded as to pronounce u, as in the French word bureau [by'ro] or in the German word fr [fyr];
[ʌ] intermediate vowel between
a and o, as in the English word run [rʌn];
[ə] that is the final sound of many words in some dialects of southern Italy, as [panə], [vinə], or as in the English word [ə];
[J] semivowel, as in the Italian word
ieri ['jεri] or in the English word you [ju];
[w] semivowel, as in the Italian word
tuorlo ['twɔrlo] or in the English word water ['wɔ:tə].

Consonants

We can use the symbols of the Italian alphabet (b, d, f, h, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v) to which we add:

[θ] as in thing [θiŋ], similar to the sound [t] but with the air filtering through the teeth;
[] as in
that [t], similar to the sound [d] but with the air filtering through the teeth;
[ʃ] as in the Italian word scena ['ʃεna] or in the English word shelf [ʃelf];
[ʒ] as in the French word jour [ʒu:ʀ] or I the English word measure ['meʒə];
[tʃ] as in the Italian word
cielo ['tʃεlo] or in the English word chat [tʃt];
[k] as in the Italian word
cane ['kane];
[dʒ] as in the Italian word
gelo ['dʒεlo];
[g] as in the Italian word
gatto ['gatto];
[x] as in the Spanish word
Juan [xu'an];
[ŋ]
velar n, as in the Italian word inganno [iŋ'ganno] or in the English word writing ['raitiŋ];
[ʎ] as in the Italian word
giglio ['dʒiʎo];
[ɲ] as in the Italian word
gnomo ['ɲɔmo] - [gn] is pronounced, however, [g] followed by [n], as in the English word magnetic [mg'netik];
[ts] voiceless z, as in the Italian word inizio [i'nitsio].
[dz] voiced
z, as in the Italian word zona ['dzɔna]
[s] voiceless
s, as in the Italian word sole ['sole].
[z] voiced
s, (not zed), as in the Italian word rosa ['rɔza].

Stress, length

We will use the apostrophe ['] to indicate that the syllable that follows is the one with the strongest stress and a colon [:] to indicate that the preceding vowel is long.

Examples

We have, now, the symbols we can use to remove ambiguities or to represent certain sounds which we are not used to. For the rest, we will continue to use the symbols of the Italian alphabet.
Obviously, the list is far from complete, but there is no reason to complicate our lives with investigations that would go beyond our needs.
We can try, at this point, to write the pronunciation of some phrases that
are frequently used in QSOs.

Is this frequency in use, please? [iz is 'fri:kwənsi in ju:z pli:z];
[] like [d] but with the air filtering through the teeth, stress on ['fri:], [i:] long vowel, [w] semivowel as in
water, [ə] as in Abruzzo dialect [panə], [j] semivowel as in ieri, [u:] long vowel, [z] like [s] but voiced.
CQ twenty
[si:kj'u 'twenti];
[i:] long vowel , [k] as in
cane, semivowel [j] as in ieri and stress on ['u], semivowel [w] as in water.
This is Italy Kilo Six Quebec Golf Echo
[is iz 'itəli 'ki:ləu siks kwi'bεk gɔlf 'εkəu];
[ε] open vowel as in
cartello, [ɔ] open vowel as in cotto.
My name is Charles
[mai 'neim iz tʃa:ls];
[z] voiced
s as in rosa, [tʃ] as in n cielo, [a:] long vowel.
My QTH is Manchester
[mai kj'u ti eitʃ iz man'tʃestə];
stress on ['tʃe], final sound in [ə] as in Abruzzo or Neapolitan dialects [panə], [vinə].
Fine weather here, in Bournemouth
[fain 'weə hiə in 'bɔ:nməθ];
stresses on ['we] and ['bɔ:], [ə] as in Abruzzo or Neapolitan dialects [panə], [vinə].
Thank you very much
nk ju: veri mʌtʃ];
[θ]
similar to the sound [t] but with the air filtering through the teeth, [] intermediate vowel between [a] and [e], [ʌ] intermediate vowel between [a] and [o], [tʃ] as in cielo.
Your report is five and nine
[jɔ: ri'pɔ:t iz faiv nd nain];
[ɔ:] open vowel as in c
otto, but long, stress on ['pɔ:], [z] like an [s] but voiced.
My antenna is a magnetic loop
[mai n'tenə iz ə mg'netik lu:p]
[gn] to be pronounced as [g] followed by [n], stresses on ['te] and ['ne
My name is Juan
(Spanish name) [mai neim iz xu'an];
[x] similar to [k] but with the air filtering between the palate and the back of the tongue.

Gracias por tu llamada ['graθias pɔr tu ʎa'mada];
[ʎ] as in the Italian word giglio ['dʒiʎo].

Conclusions

You can do many activities using the radio, but probably you mainly talk and listen to other hams. In the context of such
activity, dealing with pronunciation is not a waste of time: I am convinced and I hope I have convinced someone else.
To conclude and to continue to avoid confusion, it seems a good idea to highlight the fact that some dictionaries use other phonetic transcription systems that have not, however, the completeness and accuracy that linguists recognize to the International Phonetic Alphabet.
If someone should wish to take one of the excellent handbooks for QSOs available online or in amateur radio shows, some of which are
in three or four languages, and integrate it with the pronunciation notes written using the International Phonetic Alphabet, this short article would not be completely useless and we could have a new tool, practical and easy to be used during our QSOs in a foreign language.


Bibliography

  • The Principles of the International Phonetic Association, Department of Phonetics, University College, London, 1970.

  • Daniel Jones, English Pronouncing Dictionary, Everyman's Reference Library, London, 1964.

  • Angelo Gentile, Principi di trascrizione fonetica, Liguori, Napoli, 1966.

  • Wikipedia, http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Association .

  • Universit degli studi di Cassino, Dispensa di fonetica,

http://webuser.unicas.it/linguistica/schirru/fonetica_dispensa.pdf.

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