Posted by Neal on June 29, 2015
Last September, a reader named Richard Gunton left a comment on my panphonemic poem post with the following panphone that he’d composed:
Catching weary waterfowl on thin ice gives surly polar bears huge pleasure and ensures they enjoy good meat unharmed.
I commented back:
By George, I believe this is panphonemic! How did you come to write it? And if you don’t mind, could you give your own vowel inventory in IPA, and show which word(s) go(es) with which vowel? The low backs are hard enough for me to keep straight in my own dialect, let alone a different accent. If there’s an interesting story behind this, I’d be happy to put it up here as a guest post.
Richard responded back with a list of every phoneme with the words it appeared in, with this commentary and backstory:
It’s interesting that my list of vowels distinguishes a much greater number than the one in your table above. I took it from my dictionary, and I do believe these all represent distinct phonemes for standard British English.
As to how I came up with it – well, back at the end of 2008 I had just moved to France, so had the subtleties of exotic phonemes on my mind, and a bilingual dictionary to hand. My French colleagues and I had been comparing French and English pangrams, so I thought a sentence with every sound of a language would be the next challenge. I realised that /ʒ/ was one of the rarest phonemes in English, so I started with “pleasure”, prefaced that with “huge” since /dʒ/ seemed a bit uncommon too, and built it up around that. That’s all I can remember now – it did take me quite a few idle nights to get there!
Well, that’s interesting enough that I really should have turned his work into a guest post by now. Better late than never. But I’ve made just a couple of adjustments to his panphone (with adjustments made accordingly to the list of words and phonemes), to give it some topicality:
Catching weary dolphins on thin ice gives surly polar bears huge pleasure and ensures they now enjoy good meat unharmed.
/m/ meat; unharmed
/t/ meat; dolphins
/d/ and; good; unharmed; dolphin
/n/ dolphins; on; thin; and; ensures; enjoy; unharmed
̣/s/ ice; surly
/z/ gives; bears; ensures
/l/ dolphin; surly; polar; pleasure
/dʒ/ huge; enjoy
/g/ gives; good
/w/ weary; waterfowl
/h/ huge; unharmed
Vowels and Diphthongs (‘ follows vowel being referred to)
/i/ weary’; meat
/I/ catchi’ng; thin; gives; e’nsures; e’njoy; ‘dolphin
/æ/ ca’tching; and
/ə/ pola’r; pleasu’re