Dear Prof. Wells,


Thank you for your generosity in letting my concerns take up so much of your blog space. Your concluding remarks, namely “He would represent shi in IPA as [ʂ͡ɨ] and zi as [z͡ɯ]. The slur marks reflect the fact that friction may extend into the vowel.” need clarification though:


1.      The table (reproduced below) deals with the rime/nucleus part only, with the onset put aside. As you know, the possible onsets here are the homorganic (re apix) sibilants, plus r (in Pinyin) in the retroflex case.

2.      It follows from (1) that the 4 slur marks in the table do not cover the onset but are co-extensive with the nucleus only.

3.      The slur marks FOR ME DO NOT reflect the fact that friction may extend into the vowel. In fact I do not know that slur marks can function in that way. They are meant to capture the two contributing places of articulation. My understanding (which may not be correct) is that there are no formal ways in the IPA to represent that “friction may extend into the vowel”, and that’s why I need the alternating columns to represent the pronunciations with and without extension of friction respectively.

4.      I have no preference among the three different notational orientations, namely dorsum (last line), apex (one line above), or both (still one line above). However, if we are serious about representing the stricture at the apex at all, then we have to somehow use ɻ and z̞ as shown in the table (or the simpler ɹ or the still simpler r), as superscripts (like in your [ʂɯr]) if not as regular-size characters.

5.      Your representation for the onset of zi is impeccable, which I would not want to change at all.

6.      The alterations needed for “my” representations [ʂ͡ɨ] and [z͡ɯ] for shi and zi would be (i) take away the slur marks; (2) change the z back to your d̥z̥; (3) add superscripts for apicality. The resultant form would beː [ʂɨɻ  d̥z̥ɯɹ]. I would appreciate it if at least this resultant form could be posted to replace [ʂ͡ɨ][z͡ɯ], hopefully for the promulgation of proper IPA usage.


[Reproduced with correction]

Table of notations in accordance with IPA principles (extracted and translated from original text in Chinese)



Nucleus for zhi

Nucleus for zi <1>


With friction

Without friction

With friction

Without friction

Apex & dorsum





Apex with dorsum





Dorsum with apex







1.          [In this table a]ll instances of z̞ can be changed to ɹ. This point will not be repeated elsewhere. [To be exact in terms of place of articulation, this ɹ can be represented as ɹ̪.]

2.          On these two occasions, the degree of stricture is higher at the apex than at the dorsum, rendering representation in the “dorsum with apex” fashion inappropriate.

3.          IPA [chart] 1989 gives an independent status to the upper right hook in ɚ whereby the hook becomes a diacritic representing rhoticity in the broad sense; in accordance with this principle, ɨ plus a right-hand hook can also be used. ɨɻ is a clearer and more detailed notation.

4.          [The superscript z is meant to be z̞. I was somehow technically barred from representing this z with a diacritic.]