How to Transcribe A Word That The Speaker Doesn't Known


When transcribing spoken dialogues between individuals, what do we write if the words are ambiguous?

Example 1:

Hyun: How do you spell witch in English?

Jim: Which 'which' are you asking about?

(Is the second 'which' the right choice?)

Example 2:

Teacher: In English, homophones are words that sound the same but have different spellings. For example, we have three different words for too: 'two' the number, 'too' meaning 'in addition', and 'to' as a verb.

(The speaker isn't referring to the word 'too'. They are referring to the sound /to͞o/. It would seem odd to have a pronunciation there though.)


Posted 2017-02-28T00:54:09.070

Reputation: 149

1I'd be suspicious of any teacher who classes to as a verb. – verbose – 2017-02-28T00:59:16.677

It's a tough problem. The best thing you can do, I think, is transcribe it as the most likely or most common word. – stangdon – 2017-02-28T02:20:34.553

@verbose: probably meant to as an infinitive marker, though that would usually be pronounced as a weak form /tʊ/ /tu/ /tə/ which would not sound like two or too /tuː/. – JavaLatte – 2017-02-28T04:37:08.890

@verbose *Adverb ;) – Lan – 2017-02-28T11:52:17.283

It's not an adverb either. It's a preposition. – verbose – 2017-02-28T20:23:07.630 describes it as an adverb in addition to a preposition. Merriam Webster describes it similarly. – Lan – 2017-02-28T20:43:06.697



In example 1, Jim doesn't need to repeat the sound: he could easily explain by referring to the distinct meanings, for example:

Jim: Do you want the spelling for "which cake do you want?" or for "the witch cast a spell"?

As for example 2: if it's spoken, the issue doesn't arise, and if it's written, then phonemic script /tuː/ would be the clearest way of explaining. The context of the following words should help those people that can't read phonemic script.


Posted 2017-02-28T00:54:09.070

Reputation: 43 538