Covenanter Introduces New Phonetic Symbol

Post a Comment » Written on January 19th, 2006     
Filed under: News
ROCHESTER, MN (January 19, 2006) – Covenanter Ken Olson recently made a major contribution to what is an obscure, but necessary science if the gospel is going to go into all the world.

Olson contributed a new symbol to the International Phonetic Alphabet – the first new contribution in 12 years. Linguists have agreed on the special alphabet when doing transcriptions of different languages. Ultimately the work leads to helping missionaries with translations.

Ken Olson Olson proposed the symbol for what is known as the labiodental flap. “The sound is produced by drawing the lower lip back into the mouth – well behind the upper teeth – and then bringing it forward rapidly, striking the upper teeth briefly in passing,” according to SIL International, the organization for which Olson is the associate international linguistics coordinator. To learn more about this organization, please visit SIL.

The symbol looks like the combination of a “v” and an “r” and technically is known as “a right hook ‘v.’ ” Prior to its inclusion, linguists used ad hoc letter combinations such as “vw,” Olson says.

The rare inclusion is the result of study that began in 1993, when Olson traveled to northwest Congo to work with the Mono people. “I picked Congo because that’s where the Evangelical Covenant Church had contacts,” Olson says. “I had a lot of contacts in the Covenant mission community.

“We came across this sound,” Olson continues. “We hadn’t come across this one before. Now what do we do with this?” he asked.

“I was intrigued by it,” says Olson. He made numerous audio and video recordings to learn exactly how it (the sound) was produced.” Olson looked for literature written on the sound, but was able to find very little. His study wound up as part of his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Chicago.

Since having the symbol approved, Olson has been featured in the New York Times and on National Public Radio.

Olson grew up in the Rochester Covenant Church in Rochester where he continues to attend.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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