Wuglife and others on the #Tumblinguistics tag have been talking about syntax trees, and good programs with which to make them. It’s got me thinking about all the software I use in my day-to-day linguistics work, and I thought that I’d start sharing them with you. Some of them might be useful if you’re just getting into linguists, and some of them I find useful for other things as well.
The first thing I want to introduce you to is a website that I use so often it’s almost permanently open on my computer. The IPA character picker is the easiest way I’ve found of locating some of the fiddlier characters of the International Phonetic Alphabet. You just click on the characters to build your word and copy the Unicode font from the bottom. Easy as that! I love that it’s arranged like an IPA chart, with vowels in one box and consonants in another. Also, if you’ve forgotten what some of them more esoteric forms are you can hover over them to get a reminder!
There are also character pickers for other alphabets. I often use the Devanagari and Tibetan pickers - but there are over 20 different scripts on Ishda’s website (and if the one you want isn’t there - tell them!).
Although you won’t want to be writing long texts using these, they’re more accessible than many language-specific keyboard designs (although I’ll talk about that next week!). There is a way to save the webpage offline, which means you can even use it when you’re not about to connect to the internet!
And if phonetics isn’t your thing, you can use it to make the most impressive ˠːʢǂɸsparkly unicorn punctuationɸǂʡːˠ ever.
I have 3 main ways of typing IPA characters, which all have advantages and disadvantages.
1. IPA Palette is a free tiny program for Mac that’s very similar in spirit to IPA character picker, as far as symbols being organized according to the IPA chart, but not online. I believe IPA character map is a similar program for PC. Advantage: works for basically any text field. Disadvantage: you have to open a separate program.
2. The insert-symbol menu (go to Latin: IPA or IPA extension), which can be found in Word or Google docs. Advantage: doesn’t require special knowledge or software. Disadvantage: menus are tedious and only works in word-processing programs.
3. LaTeX (again). Have I mentioned that LaTeX is awesome? Using the package TIPA, you can type IPA symbols using fairly intuitive text commands such as \textschwa or \@ within the \textipa environment, both of which will produce schwa. Advantage: you can do it all within one program, without copy-pasting. Disadvantage: doesn’t work if you’re writing outside LaTeX, and you may have to look up how to make a symbol.
If I were a phonetician/phonologist or if I worked with a language that regularly used non-Roman characters, then I might have a more unified solution, but this is what works for me.