Re: DIN 5007, Swiss Sorting

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Sun Mar 12 2000 - 07:12:06 EST

Ar 20:32 -0800 2000-03-11, scríobh Alain:

>Michael Everson disagrees that for English lower case should be sorted
>first in case of quasi homographs (ex. : august before August), based on
>what he deduces from the short version of the OED.

I don't just disagree or deduce, I gave actual evidence. The "short
version" Alain refers to is the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current
English. See for a review
of dictionaries.

>But the full OED has no preference,

That is stating too much. The full OED orders its homographic headwords
according to the date the word entered into the language (earlier precedes
later), and therefore does NOT use deterministic ordering, and therefore
case ordering from the full OED cannot be used to determine the preference
for the English language. One must use other dictionaries to find this
information. Proof? From Oxford:

"For example, the OED ignores any capitalization, and sorts firstly on part
of speech (the order being noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, etc.), with each
part of speech usually dealt with in a separate entry. Then, once that
order is established, the sorting is done on a chronological basis, with
the earliest coming first."

>it is easy to demonstrate (same kind of exceptions as for
>French encyclopedias -- German case discrimination is systematic, whence
>the reason for Canadian preference, which we find compatible with French
>and English).

I have discussed the matter with the editorial staff of Webster and of
Oxford and I have received definitive opinions from both of them. From

"Of the various dictionaries that this department publishes, the most
deliberately prescriptive is the 'Oxford Spelling Dictionary' (2nd edition,
1995) and its updated paperback version, the 'Oxford Colour Spelling
Dictionary' (1996). This book orders capitals before lower-case letters
consistently, and I would regard this as representing the preferred
editorial practice of Oxford University Press."

From Webster:

"Our policy is to put the common nouns or other generic words first,
followed by proper nouns or adjectives like "Polish." This would not appear
to me to be based on historical order, which is the general principle for
homograph ordering. For example, in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
Dictionary, Tenth Edition, "March" comes after the regular "march" entries
even though it is older. I can only speculate on the origins of a policy
that was begun long
ago, to wit: The dictionary always gives priority to the lexicon as opposed
to facts in the encyclopedic vein, and so common nouns and other ordinary
words appear to get first billing."

So these two great houses have differing practice. But as I have shown in
the document referred to above, the general trend is for capitals to
precede smalls in English.

Michael Everson ** Everson Gunn Teoranta **
15 Port Chaeimhghein Íochtarach; Baile Átha Cliath 2; Éire/Ireland
Vox +353 1 478 2597 ** Fax +353 1 478 2597 ** Mob +353 86 807 9169
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn; Baile an Bhóthair; Co. Átha Cliath; Éire

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Tue Jul 10 2001 - 17:20:59 EDT