Re: Fixing Two Unicode Asymmetries in case conversion

Date: Fri Nov 13 1998 - 11:24:26 EST

another note on the sharp s:

the sharp s (

ß) was born as a ligature from two different-looking (but
same-sounding) s-letters. some german "legend" mistakenly says that it is
an sz-ligature, but that is wrong despite similarities in looks. old
english writing apparently also had these two s-letters, as i found in a
facsimile version of the "bill of rights". in german writing, this
disappeared with the ban (1941, by hitler) of the old german script
(hand-written as well as printed).

so, on one hand, this is one of the ligatures that may be expanded to two
letters for uppercasing or for other reasons.

on the other hand, to expand it even in lowercase and to preserve old
german (and english) spelling, there is indeed a second s-letter in
Unicode, latin small letter long s, U+017f. software dealing with this may
have to be sensitive to languages like "old german" and "old english" or to
an attribute of "old style european". the sharp s U+00df should become
U+017f U+0073. the long s is the not-at-the-end-of-a-syllable-s. also, all
other s-letters that are not at the end of a syllable would have to be
converted to U+017f.

i remember at least one modern example of where both s-letters are used: in
headlines in the big german daily newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung" ("FAZ").

the second s-letter does not have a distinct uppercase equivalent. similar
to what was discussed here earlier, one may want to make a case for an
uppercase version that looks just like a normal S, but
orthography-sensitive software should not need that.

to convert text from uppercase or non-ligatured lowercase/normalcase with
double-normal-s to normalcase with the sharp s ligature ß, software could
be language- or style-sensitive and detect the ends of syllables (using
hyphenation rules) where there are at least two s letters next to each

for example, "Fussball" has syllables "Fuss" and "ball" and would be
converted to "Fußball", while "müssen" has syllables "müs" and "sen" and
does not change.

part of the recent change in the german orthography rules is to do away
with the sharp s letter in most, not all, cases and to replace it with two
normal s letters, but this change is still debated, especially in the state
of Schleswig-Holstein (the states have authority over education and
culture, not the federation). actually, looking at the details, the new
rule may even be more difficult for software that converts from two
s-letters to the sharp s, because hyphenation rules alone won't do any

mixed news, i guess,

markus (another "native speaker of german" :-)

Markus Scherer IBM RTP +1 919 486 1135 Dept. Fax +1 919 254 6430

Michael Everson <> on 98-11-13 09:59:05

Please respond to

To: Unicode List <>
cc: (bcc: Markus Scherer/Raleigh/Contr/IBM)
Subject: Re: Fixing Two Unicode Asymmetries in case conversion

Ar 05:10 -0800 1998-11-13, scr


>As a native speaker of German, I strongly support the introduction of an
>uppercase eqiuvalent to U+00df "ß" (lowercase German sharp s) not only
>for the cited reason. While the "official" German orthographic rules do
>know an uppercase "ß", you find MANY instances of such a letter in
>use. Look at nameplates or newspaper advertisements: You will find a lot
>of "ß" surrounded by capitals, especially when the "correct" "SS" looks
>ugly, silly or (as it is often the case) misleading. Especially in
>advertisings where decorative fonts are used, this is the case.

I have often mentioned having seen such samples (with a sharp S designed to
blend with the capitals, not just a small one stuck in between them), but I
couldn't substantiate it because I didn't have the sample.

Michael Everson, Everson Gunn Teoranta **
15 Port Chaeimhghein Íochtarach; Baile Átha Cliath 2; Éire/Ireland
Guthán: +353 1 478-2597 ** Facsa: +353 1 478-2597 (by arrangement)
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn;  Baile an Bhóthair;  Co. Átha Cliath; Éire

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