In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Transcription

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Surveys and Bibliographies
  • The Problem of Transcription Error and Validity
  • Political, Legal, and Forensic Issues
  • Other Issues

Linguistics Transcription
Willem de Reuse
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0174


For the layman, transcription connotes medical transcription, court transcription, musical transcription, or even gene transcription in biology. This bibliography concentrates on linguistic transcription. Linguistic transcription can be classified according to source: for example, transcription of the voice of a speaker in the field, or transcription from a previously recorded corpus. Linguistic transcription can also be classified according to purpose of transcription: phonetic, phonological, orthographic, discourse analytic, or conversation analytic. Transcription should not be confused with transliteration, which is the mechanical transfer from one system of symbols to another. Transcription, as shown in Elinor Ochs’s article “Transcription as Theory” (Ochs 1979, cited under Discourse Transcription), is always a theory, and there is nothing mechanical to it. The transcriber makes subjective decisions (possibly ideologically or politically motivated) about what to transcribe and what not to transcribe. Furthermore, the sound signal is not made of discrete units, and therefore any segmentation of what is heard into discrete symbols is, in fact, a theoretically motivated decision. This bibliography will not discuss issues of transcription included in other Oxford Bibliographies articles: these are IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet); Phonetics, since textbooks of phonetics always teach phonetic transcription; Phonology, since textbooks of phonology always teach phonological transcription; Fieldwork, since books on fieldwork methods generally contain a section on transcription in fieldwork; and Endangered Languages and Language Revitalization, since books on these topics usually contain a section on orthography development. However, an attempt has been made to strike a balance of contributions by the various stakeholders in transcription issues, including phoneticians and phonologists, documentary fieldworkers, folklorists, dialectologists and sociolinguists, discourse and conversation analysts, ethnographers, psycholinguists, speech pathologists, and specialists with forensic (such as legal and educational) interests.

Introductory Surveys and Bibliographies

A basic division between transcribers is between those interested in transcription at the phonetic or phonological level, surveyed in Kemp 2006, Wells 2006, and MacMahon 1996, and those interested in transcription of discourse, with less attention to phonetic detail and more attention to the visual layout of transcripts, surveyed in Bucholtz 2007, Edwards 2001, and Hammersley 2010.

  • Bucholtz, Mary. 2007. Variation in transcription. Discourse Studies 9:784–808.

    DOI: 10.1177/1461445607082580

    A guide to main current issues in the study of discourse transcription, with useful conventions and a bibliography. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Edwards, Jane. 2001. The transcription of discourse. In Handbook of discourse analysis. Edited by Deborah Tannen, Deborah Schiffrin, and Heidi E. Hamilton, 321–348. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Focuses on general principles of discourse transcription, such as encoding processes, category design, computational tractability, and visual display; contrasts methods and assumptions, such as format-based versus content-based decisions. Also includes discussions of practicalities, such as software tools, and of the history of discourse transcription. Useful bibliography.

  • Hammersley, Martyn. 2010. A selective and partially annotated bibliography on transcription in social research. Unpublished.

    A recent fifteen-page bibliography, useful for references to discourse transcription.

  • Kemp, J. Alan. 2006. Phonetic transcription: History. In The encyclopedia of language & linguistics. 2d ed. Vol. 9. Edited by Keith Brown, 396–410. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    Survey and taxonomy of the different types of phonetic transcription: impressionistic versus systematic, and alphabetic versus analphabetic. A detailed history of phonetic transcription, including developments before and after the IPA.

  • MacMahon, Michael K. C. 1996. Phonetic notation. In The world’s writing systems. Edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright, 821–846. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Introductory, particularly useful for the many illustrative tables of non-IPA and non-Americanist transcription systems. Supplements the taxonomies in Kemp 2006.

  • Wells, J. C. 2006. Phonetic transcription and analysis. In The encyclopedia of language & linguistics. 2d ed. Vol. 9. Edited by Keith Brown, 386–396. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

    This survey, overlapping somewhat with Kemp 2006 in scope, is useful because of its exemplification of analytical problems in the transcription of vowels and diphthongs of English (making for interesting comparison with Gleason 1961, cited under Phonetic and Phonological Systems), and for exemplification of phonetic alphabets used in language teaching materials.

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