From: John Hudson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Nov 06 2002 - 14:51:49 EST
At 08:04 11/6/2002, Dominikus Scherkl wrote:
>There are wonderful words in German like "Wachstube"
>this could mean "guards room" (Wach-Stube, so "st" may be
>ligated) or "wax tube" (Wachs-Tube, so an "st"-ligature
>would force misreadings).
>In this rare case both readings make sense, but there are
>many more where a displaced ligature would simply lead to
>misreadings where sylables are gathered the wrong way
>which don't make any sense at all.
In the case of Wachstube, using an st ligature would only 'force a
misreading' if the correct reading were 'wax tube'. One could equally well
argue that using an st ligature would reinforce a *correct* reading of
'guards room', in which case the ligature should perhaps not be prohibited
but encouraged because it removes the ambiguity of the ligatureless spelling.
Of course, all this depends on the notion that readers automatically
associate ligature formation with syllable construction, which I don't
think is at all certain. Things like the ct and st ligatures are oddities,
in that they are not standard elements of Latin script typography in any
language. Consider, instead, f-ligatures, which are standard for most
languages and which have a functional purpose in preserving good wordshape.
I don't believe that English readers encountering an fb ligature in the
middle of the compound word 'goofball' are confused about where the
syllables, and hence the subwords, end and begin. Indeed, the point of
having the ligature is so that the reader's attention will not be drawn to
the sequence. Competent readers do not notice standard ligatures. Plenty of
read hundreds of books in during their life without even knowing that
Are the German ligation rules backed up by any empirical studies of the
ways in which competent German readers read? Or is it a convention based on
grammatical theory without any reference to the mechanics of reading?
Tiro Typeworks www.tiro.com
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It is necessary that by all means and cunning,
the cursed owners of books should be persuaded
to make them available to us, either by argument
or by force. - Michael Apostolis, 1467
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