All experienced transcribers know that two key factors are critical to the efficiency for transcription work — listen and write. First, the transcriber shall listen and understand the content of audio/video files, then write them down quickly. Well, I'd like to introduce a critical factor that determines whether you can listen or understand the content of audio/video files – phonetic transcription. This is an important term and concept.
According to the explanation of Wikipedia, phonetic transcription is the visual representation of speech sounds (or phones). The most common type is the use of a phonetic alphabet, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet. In other words, phonetic transcription may aim to transcribe the phonology of a language or realize the precise phonetic. Generally speaking, it is divided into broad phonetic transcription and narrow phonetic transcription.
The IPA is short for International Phonetic Alphabet, which is the most popular and well-known phonetic alphabet. It was originally created by primarily British language teachers, and then is gradually changed from its earlier intention as an early foreign language teaching tools to a practical alphabet of linguists for European phoneticians and linguists' efforts. Now in the field of phonetics, it is currently becoming ubiquitous alphabet.
In all systems of transcription, we mainly divide it into broad and narrow phonetic transcription. Broad transcription mainly refers to noticeable phonetic features of utterance, whereas narrow transcription means the phonetic variations of the specific allophones in the utterance. The main difference between broad and narrow is a continuum. A phonemic transcription is one particular feature of a broad transcription. The advantage of the broad transcription is that it usually allows statements to be made which apply across a more diverse language community. While, the benefit of the narrow transcription is that it can help transcribers to get exactly the right sound, and helps transcribers make detailed analyses of language variation. The golden rule in many linguistics contexts is to use a narrow transcription when it is necessary for getting an accurate point, but a broad transcription is possible at anytime.
In our transcription work, a clear understanding and distinguishing of these inherent characteristics of phonetic transcription can help you hear pronunciation clearly, or find better way to enhance your own hearing skills. For more information, please click Should You Know Phonetic Transcription? (2)
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