It (the title) is a rewritten version of Buy a pie for the spy – an interesting post that points out some interesting stuff about plosives voiced unvoiced and aspirated but misses a couple of tricks. The first is in the title, which in contrast to my 4/1/3 count (syllables/idea/plosives) has a count of 6/2/3 and introduces a needless arbitariness (Why should a SPY want a PIE?) and an irrelevant specificity (Why THE spy?).
I sense, though, that the writer teaches in the Far East, so that six simple monosyllables (avoiding the tricky /st p/ cluster) do the job better. And the very arbitrariness of the spy/pie thing may make it more memorable for a student; I'm not sure. Anyway, I prefer my more elegant version.
We come now to the second missed trick – a more serious one. It is summed up in this sentence:
In IPA, the three words buy, pie and spy are represented as [baɪ], [pʰaɪ] and [spaɪ] respectively.Let's try a rewrite of that sentence:
The notation I (and many other EFL/ESOL teachers) prefer for teaching purposes is phonemic (what I used earlier to refer to 'the /st p/ cluster [where spiced meets pie]'). But this post doesn't begin to intruduce the concept of the phoneme; well, it does use the word 'phonological' once, which is in the right ballpark. It suggests that the writer knows so much about phonetics that s/he has made a conscious decision to avoid phoneme.
In IPAUsing the symbols recognized by the IPA, the three words buy, pie and spy arecan be represented as [baɪ], [pʰaɪ] and [spaɪ] respectively.
I think this is a mistake, particularly as every IPA chart that I've ever seen – among those that are likely to be referred to by an EFL/ESOL student – is called something like a phonemic chart of the the sounds of English.
But the post is interesting and illuminating, and well worth a read. I will, however, make up for the lack of phonemes by republishing a passage from #WVGTbook:
The International Phonetics Association specifies a number of symbols and diacritics that can be used to transcribe any speech sound in any natural language, to a greater or lesser degree of precision. Learning the whole system would be a huge undertaking, and is unnecessary for any practical purpose. A precise transcription is conventionally presented within square brackets [...]; this could be used to represent how a particular speaker makes a particular utterance. It is phonetic.
b – signing off for the year. My [ahem] aspiration is that you should ʰave a ... whatever, possibly buying spiced pies before the event.
Update 2013.12.31.16.35 – Added afterthought in red.
Update 2014.01.01.14:20 – Added afterthought in blue, and this PS
PS I touched on this issue here (about halfway down).
‡Update 2014.01.01.16:30 – And another, in brown.
Update 2014.01.0216:30 – Added this PS:
We were talking about this a while ago at UsingEnglish.com, at which I brought up my accustomed example, Audrey Hepburn:
I think native English speakers may be aware of it, without giving it much (if any) thought. For example, few people would say 'Audrey Hepburn sounds foreign'. In fact, I'm not sure myself. But her Dutch-speaking background gives her voiced plosives enough aspiration* to make me wonder.
I'm sure the Hollywood executives who first hired her had no idea about her aspiration, but it probably influenced their thinking that 'the kid had something special about her'.
PS You're interested, though it is an interesting question.
pps Her mistake was the reverse - not aspirating initial voiceless consonants
Update 2018.02.08.18:30 – Removed old footer