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(Sheathing his sword, the big private helped an adult commonwealth refugee.)
Since I wrote this article, John Welles has informed me of a number of good pages, including the excellent SAMPA and The IPA in Unicode.
A while back, I mentioned that Magnetic Phonetics is a nice little product. It provides a game based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). I now think it's too hard for nonlinguists. Perhaps I'm wrong. If so, someone will send me a shorter sentence that uses all the sounds of the IPA. Even if I'm correct, it's an interesting topic.
First, the puzzle. Add a single sound to the sounds of REOFFERED and rearrange them to get a well known seven letter word. Send Answer. This is the only puzzle I made that worked in all the dictionaries I checked. Near misses included (consternation, nonsectarian), (matrimonial, momentarily), (motherland, alderman), (biological, diabolical), (culpability, politically), and (fermentation, termination).
The most helpful site for the IPA is in a course description by Kevin Russell. The Dave Barry column in IPA format is definitely worth a look. I found these usage examples more useful than the charts offered at the official International Phonetic Association website. If you get Magnetic Phonetics, you'll get a copy of these charts, but you won't get any hint as to how to use a 'glottal plosive'() or a 'postalveolar flap'() in a spoken word. In the game, these sounds are worth 4 and 5 points, respectively. After research, I can't pronounce them.
My intention for the puzzle this week was to make a Phonetic Crossword. Crossword Compiler by Antony Lewis will do amazing things with any word list. I made these (1, 2, 3) with it. Next, I looked over a few word lists. The CMU Dictionary is what I started with. I also looked at Grady Ward's Moby lists, the Oxford wordlists, and the Brian Kelk lists. I picked up an IPA font from Henry Roger's Fonts. I used The Oxford English Dictionary to verify things, and The Oxford Dictionary of Current English for quick look-up.
Unfortunately, my sources and word lists disagree with each other. Also, the large word lists have many obscure words. 'Platysma' probably wouldn't be acceptable in a modern crossword, but it would be much, much worse in a phonetic crossword. I found this out after making a few. Sample 5x6 rectangle: Four of the across words (translated back from IPA) are (INDEX, ROMIC, ?, ALLURED, and SALONS). Romic is an obscure word. I didn't recognize some of the down words. Just like with a normal word list, I will need to weed out all the obscure words before I can make a fair puzzle. I need to rebuild my phonetic wordlist from scratch.
The IPA has a connection to speech recognition. Basically, if you said the opening sentence above, the computer program would apply a series of wavelet transforms on your spoken words. The transforms would 'supersmooth' what you said, eliminate extraneous data, and produce a list of sounds. It would then go through an internal database much like the CMU Dictionary, then convert the sounds into the appropriate words. Homophones are still a problem (I'm A-cup, eye makeup -- Henry Hook), but a grammar parser can help there.