Off topic: again on Italian spelling (was RE: Plane 14 language t ags)

From: Marco.Cimarosti@icl.com
Date: Thu Jun 29 2000 - 15:01:21 EDT


Antoine Leca wrote:
> the lowercase of Italian (or Corsican) "A'", "E'", ... at the end of a
> word is likely to be "", "/", ... (Marco, is it really true? and how
> and are handled?)

We should rather say that -A' (etc.) is a poor man's capitalization for -
(etc.). The proper capital form is, of course, -.

The use of apostrophes in place of final accents, specially on capital
letters, became popular because of technical limitations: typewriters and
old computer character sets (e.g. DOS code page 437) have no accented
capitals, and Italian computer keyboards have no accented capitals nor dead
keys.

Moreover, final accents historically derive from apostrophes, because most
words ending with accented vowels arose from the truncation of the last
syllable (e.g., libert used to be libertade, optionally truncated as
libertad' or liberta'). A word of this kind is still called "tronca" in
Italian grammars.

I don't know of any commercial software automatically restoring proper
accents when changing case, although many Italian users must have written
such a word-processor macro at list once in their lives. But doing it
seriously (and unattended) is a different matter: the ASCII apostrophe is
used for lots of unrelated things: apostrophe proper, substitute for
accents, quotation mark, abbreviation for "minute" or "prime", marking
footnotes, transcription of Semitic languages, etc.

The biggest problem, as you mentioned, is that -E' may be the capital form
of both - and - (and also -e', by the way). So the proper place for such a
thing is probably a spellchecker. I don't know which products implement such
a feature, but for sure I would like to have it, 'cause the phonetic
distinction behind the and spellings is totally obscure to me (northern
Italian dialects normally have a 5- or 6-vowel system, vs. the 7 vowels of
standard Italian).

I don't know if all this is also true for Corsican. The only Corsicans I
heard speaking stressed *all* their final vowels, so I assumed they didn't
need any special diacritic :-)

Ciao.
_ Marco



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