The Stepping Stone

Arbitrary IPA Numbering (A.IPA.N.)

Arbitrary IPA Numbering is the second level of IPA Notation. This is based off of the same arrangement of phonemes on the QWERTY keyboard. However, instead of using special characters, we use numbers to represent each phoneme. The intent is to enable the user to apply IPA notation in electronic form without the need for the computer to be able to process special characters. A.IPA.N. is designed so that no keys will be needed except for the keys on the number pad and can be used as a stepping stone from A.IPA.S. to articulatory analysis. The computer can read a file of articulatory analysis and convert downward to A.IPA.N. However, in order to convert downward from articulatory analysis to A.IPA.N., the computer has to do some machine learning where it uses a couple algorithms, Zipf’s law and Benford’s Law which are used together to predict specific alterations in pronunciation that cannot be noted in A.IPA.N. but are required in more precise notations.


The Numbers

As before, the phonemes are all arranged on the QWERTY keyboard in the same arbitrary sequence. Only this time, the keys are numbered diagonally starting in the upper left-hand corner. They count downward and all the original roman characters are wiped off the keys. Thus, the keyboard would look like this:

Each value represents the phoneme that falls on that key on the A.IPA.S. chart.  However, many of the keys do not have a phoneme assigned to it, so some values such as 18, are not in use. Obvious this leaves the question pertaining to the fact that most keys have two phonemes assigned to them, how does one know by looking at the number which phoneme is being conveyed?

The Asterisk

Let’s take a simple sentence: “Bud is my pet cat.” This come out as, 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*.

The first phoneme is the “b” sound in “Bud”. The sound falls on key number 1 and is a voiced consonant. The first phoneme in the word “Bud” is the (1) and is followed directly followed by (*): 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*. The (*) indicates that the phoneme, if it is a consonant, is voiced. Let’s skip ahead to the word “pet”: 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*. Again, the first phoneme is expressed by the numeral (1), only this time there is no (*) following. The reason is that both phonemes are identical except that the first uses the vibrating of the vocal cords and the second is silent. The asterisk indicates the use of the vocal cords when the phoneme is a consonant.

When the phoneme is a vowel, it is a similar concept but the asterisk has a different meaning. Look at the word “is”: 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*. The first phoneme is the vowel (expressed by the numeral 8) and the vowel is break; therefore it is not followed by a (*). Now look at the word “my”: 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*. This time, the vowel is at the end and is followed by (*) because it is open. The asterisk indicates the open vs. close/break status when the phoneme is a vowel. This is a rough breakdown of how the vowels are notated and works for most practical purposes.

The Dot

Each phoneme is set off from the others by a dot. This is mandatory for the sake of consistency even when it can be clearly seen that the phoneme has been completed. Obviously, the asterisk can only exist at the end of a phoneme and would serve the same purpose of the dot. However, in order to avoid confusion, the dot is always included at the end of every phoneme. When (*) is present, it always precedes a dot.

The dot is considered to come at the end of each phoneme, not at the beginning. Therefore, although each phoneme, except for the first one, has a dot both at the beginning and at the end, the one at the beginning is considered part of the previous phoneme and the one at the end is part of the phoneme in question. The following is the example sentence from above with each complete phoneme indicated by color: 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*.

The Zero

The zero is a hypothetical pause or a hypothetical syllable. It is a phoneme that is only detectable to the fluent listener.

When you speak, the places of the hypothetical pause are not usually expressed verbally. There is no actual pause in the speech, but it is understood and assumed. These pauses are mostly what divide one word from another; but there can be more complicated speech patterns which involve the hypothetical pause in unconventional places.

IPA notation is not supposed to be grammatical. It does not express the semantics or the morphology of language. It does not even consider the syntax. IPA notation is concerned only with articulation and nothing else. This is why the words are not considered words but rather a string of phonemes. The hypothetical pause is a little piece of nothingness which is there to demonstrate how the speech sounds as it enters the listeners’ ears.

If someone is articulating, they are not likely to be pausing at all between words; but as you listen, your brain inserts a pause at certain intervals in order to make sense of what you are hearing. The listener believes he/she is hearing a slight pause, but most of the time it is manufactured in the brain. The zero is there to tell you when and where your brain would be most likely to do this.

Below, each syntactical unit is highlighted blue and the hypothetical pauses are red:


The Base Number

The base number is the number used to calculate the actual string of numbers representing each phoneme. Choose a number at least 1 but no greater than 9. The larger the number, the shorter and less repetitive the notation will be. The number 5 is small enough to be rather repetitive but is also the easiest number to use. I like the number 8. It is large enough to cut back on the overall length and cannot be repeated more than 3 times in a phoneme. I do not use the 9 because I prefer to reserve it for measuring actual pause lengths. In the example being used, 8 is the base number.

Each person articulates on a certain base number in their vocal equation. If you are notating something that someone said, you will want to use that person’s vocal equation to determine what base number to use in notation. If you do not know the vocal equation, you probably want to use either 5 or 8. I will create a post specifically about individual vocal equations later.

Find the number of the key which your desired phoneme falls on. If the number of the key is equal to or less than the base number, it represents itself. However, if it is greater than the base number, than the phoneme will need multiple numbers to represent it. You take the base number and use it as the first numeral. Then you divide the phoneme value by the base number. However many times the base number goes into the phoneme value is how many times you repeat the base number. Whatever the remainder is, is the number following the last base number digit. For example:


The highlighted phonemes are the ones with values greater than the base number 8. The first one is the short vowel sound in “Bud”. This phoneme falls on key number 14. 14/8=1R6 thus we have one base number (8) followed by the remainder number (6) amounting to -86.-.

The second one is -886*.- This phoneme is the z sound as in “zebra” and falls on key number 22. 22/8=2R6 thus we have two base number digits (88) followed by the remainder number (6).

The third and last example is -88*.- This phoneme is the M sound as in “Mother” and falls on key number 16. 16/8=2R0 thus the phoneme is notated -88*.- When there is a zero value remainder, the zero is not notated with the rest.

As you can see, when you are notating a phone, you use division to discover which numbers ought to be used. When you are looking at a previously notated script and are trying to read it, you must use simple addition and/or multiplication to discover which phonemes are being expressed. The smaller the base number, the more likely it is that you will use multiplication instead of addition.

Because of the nature of this, it can be very easy to read. However, if a person speaks with a vocal value of 2, their vocal equation will be extremely long and repetitious. This system also does not allow for the benefit of notating the entire phoneme. For instance, the p in cup and the p in pat are two different sounds but have the same vocal value. A.IPA.N. should only be used if the user if notating something in their native language and for some reason wants to talk in numbers, or(more practically) used for downward conversion by a computer to convert a file of articulatory analysis into something that is more readable for a human being. I will explain articulatory analysis later. It is the main focus but cannot be used very well without something like this to convert to.

You must know what base number was used for the notation. If you do not know, it is easy to find it as it should be the only number that ever repeats itself. When you use different base numbers, the same sentence will come out different ways:

A.IPA.N.b9:   1*.95.4*.0.8.994*.0.97*.8*.

A.IPA.N.b8:   1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*.

A.IPA.N.b7:   1*.77.4*.0.71.7771*.0.772*.71*.

A.IPA.N.b6:   1*.662.4*.0.62.6664*.0.664*.62*.

A.IPA.N.b5:   1*.554.4*.0.53.55552*.0.5551*.53*.

And so on and so forth all the way down to numeral 1, in which case it would be the only numeral in the notation…

It is unreasonable to use any number less than 5 for a base number unless you need to describe someone’s vocal equation.

It is also entirely possible to read a notation that has no base number if you simply add all the digits in the phoneme: 1*.4316.211*.0.62.832133*.0.5642*.2312*. I see little to no reason for doing this unless you just want to use up extra space.

The Sacred 9

9 is a special number. It is a piece of meaningful nothingness. I like it so much that I never use it as a base number because I want to reserve it for the coveted task of measuring actual pause lengths. The zero is used to indicate a hypothetical pause, where no break is actually present, but what if the pause is indeed a tangible variable? This is what I use 9 for.

Morphology is dead on these plains. It has no authority here. That means there can be no such thing as grammar be it proper or otherwise. The rules for when to use a comma verses when to use a period are void. We no longer have commas or periods or anything of the like; it is all about the way the language was spoken. In other words, we simply describe how long of a pause the speaker waited before proceeding.

Take our sentence: 1*.86.4*.0.8.886*.0.88*.8*. The dot after the last digit 4 is where the sentence would end in combinatorial grammar. Suppose the speaker were to continue to say, “Bud is my pet cat. I don’t know where he is right now, but he must be close by.” This would demonstrate the fact that in common morphology, a longer pause is indicated by a period and a shorter pause is indicated by a comma….. usually. It’s more like it is the other way around; a comma usually indicates a shorter pause than a period. But it is also pretty common for the speaker to pause longer at the comma than with the period, perhaps for drama. Realistically, the comma, period and any other punctuation are only there for grammatical purposes and have little to do with how the person actually articulated.

The principle of the sacred 9 uses the numeral 9 to dictate the actual length of the pause. This means that sometimes we notate a longer pause in the middle of a sentence than we do at the end. But that’s okay because IPA Notation is only concerned with the articulation. All the other areas of language (morphology, syntax, semantics, etc.) get in the way of pure phonetic analysis.

To demonstrate how it works, let’s take the example sentences and notate them on base 8:


The two places where we have actual pauses are here:


The first one is a long pause, therefore the 9 is followed by (*). The shorter one stands alone. A pause has the potential to be somewhere in between (09.), less than the typical short pause (0*), or greater than a long pause (09*. 99*. 90*.9**. etc.). It all depends on exactly how the speaker is articulating.

The Overall Concept

It’s pretty simple. You have to know where the phonemes are located on the chart, but after that it is rather self explanatory. Because the positioning of the phonemes on the keyboard is based largely on the shape of the articulating cavity, the larger the vocal value, the further back in the throat it’s pronounced. The asterisk always means a step up of some sort. The zero is a lack of substance. The 9, if you choose to use it for pause lengths, is tangible emptiness. There is a rhythm to using this kind of system; once you start to catch on to the rhythm, it is similar to muscle memory.

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