The Wikipedia article on electropalatography makes strange reading if, like me, you think of that technique as something developed for research in phonetics. The article is very dull, and makes no reference to phonetics, covering only the commercial exploitation of EPG for therapeutic purposes. No pictures and no data. It really needs some illustration from the many studies that have been carried out using EPG for phonetic research. I hope I can do something to improve it, but it would be good if others could contribute.
If you search for either of the above terms in Wikipedia, you are redirected to the article on Isochrony. This is, on the whole, a fair summary of what most people say on the subject. What it lacks, as far as I am concerned, is any mention of David Abercrombie's contributions to the subject, and an explanation of Rebecca Dauer's approach proposing a stress-timed to syllable-timed continuum. I intend to put this right in the next few days.
The situation I described in the post below has been sorted out quickly by an unknown editor who has removed all the material on RP vowels that I was unhappy about. A nice Christmas present (as long as what has been removed stays removed!)
News of a difficult situation on the Wikipedia article on Received Pronunciation. In the section on Vowels, someone has inserted a large and complex table which in my opinion contains so many problems that it should be taken out. The author originally put it in a few days ago with many more faults, and I removed it, offering to help the author (who is obviously new to writing for WP) to re-work it. The author has now reinstated the table having corrected a few of the things I drew attention to. The oddest thing is that in the first version the data was supposed to come from published work by Lass (2002) and Bekker (2008), both of which were works on South African English. This has now been changed to Wells, John (2007) - no reference given beyond that!
Obviously we can't go on with me deleting the chart and the author reinstating it, so I have asked WP's conflict resolution people to look into it. Meanwhile I would be glad of any comments about the disputed chart and whether the phonetic values in it look correct.
For those not familiar with Wikipedia, each article has a "Talk" page associated with it where you can read the discussion about controversial matters in an article - the discussion about this vowel chart is in the last two items. (I find it hard to get to the Talk page of an article when I am using the iPad version of WP).
If you look up 'International Phonetic Alphabet' or 'Vowel', you will find the above diagram, labelled as 'IPA Vowel Chart'. This clearly has additional symbols that don't appear on the IPA Chart. It also appears in the article on 'Vowel Diagram', but there I decided to amend the captioning to make it clear that the diagram was not standard IPA. So far, no objections from other editors. The chart in the article on 'Cardinal Vowels' has the classic diagram.
As a separate matter to discuss some time, the 'Cardinal Vowel' article contains, near the end of the article, buttons on each symbol with recorded audio. A lot of the vowels sound to me rather far from the expected quality - any views on this?
If you want to see how big WP's coverage of phonetics has got, a quick look at the list of phonetic topics will show that there is an awful lot to read through.
I was intending to start with something minor, but since at the moment there's a debate going on on a Wikipedia Talk Page that I think is fundamentally important, I'll mention it now. WP aims to give IPA-style transcriptions of English pronunciations of names and unfamiliar words to help readers with the pronunciation. However, they don't want the transcription tied to either an American or a British standard, so instead they have devised a "diaphonemic" transcription that in theory can represent the vowels and consonants of any variety of English. The resulting system can be seen here. The discussion I referred to above is mainly between one WP editor who supports this system and another who prefers a re-spelling system that doesn't involve learning the IPA-style symbols. The argument has become very long, but it's worth reading. You can find it here. (You may need to scroll down to the section of Talk called "Poorly Conceived"). My own view is that I support the use of transcriptions with IPA symbols, but I am doubtful about the validity of the diaphonemic framework. I'll go on about this at more length later.
I am starting this blog for a specific purpose: I am very interested in Wikipedia (which in general I regard as a Good Thing), but concerned about the quality of some of the material that appears in Wikipedia in the area of Phonetics. (From now on, I abbreviate Wikipedia to WP). It seems to me that, since most students with an interest in Phonetics are likely to look up topics in WIkipedia and are likely to quote what they read when they write their dissertations and theses, we should be concerned when we find material that is incorrect, misleading or incomplete. I have made quite a lot of corrections myself over the last two years, but I have found it very difficult to get any other phonetician interested in this activity. I hope that this blog will enable me to get ideas from fellow phoneticians on topics that I think need attention, and comments on the existing material.
I have put on my personal website a recent paper where I have written briefly about WP and other web sources - you can read it here. This should give a fuller picture of my views on WP and its treatment of phonetics.
A blog that discusses problems in Wikipedia's coverage of Phonetics
Emeritus Professor of Phonetics,