4.6 Importance of Consistent Representation

One of the key practices we would like to encourage is consistency in representation.  If you are using a practical orthography or community-approved orthography, be aware that each character and word division that you introduce in your transcription is going to show up elsewhere such as in the glossing of words or morphemes.  The more consistent you are the easier it will be to move through analysis. 

Linguists may use a standardized phonetic representation such as the  International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) or the American Phonetic Alphabet (APA). If you are interested in learning and using the IPA, there are several resources for doing that.  The IPA is certainly very beneficial for precise phonetic transcription but here consistency and accuracy are important because the reader will assume a one-to-one correspondence between the IPA symbol used and the sound that is intended.  

We suggest making a list of the characters (letters of the alphabet) you intend to use and write out example words with that letter used at the beginning, middle, and end of the word.  Then try to describe the sound represented by that letter.  Does it sound the same at the beginning, end, or middle of a word?  Does it sound different depending on what vowel comes before or after it?  If you know the IPA or can work with someone that knows the IPA, also consider transcribing the words in your sample list into IPA.