From: Jim Allan (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Jul 29 2003 - 12:53:45 EDT
Peter Kirk posted:
> Another example might be German ß (U+00DF). Many people don't use it,
> indeed I think it has been officially abolished, but many others do use
> it. Suppose that it wasn't already in Unicode, and someone suggested it
> shouldn't be added but should be encoded as ss with markup. I don't
> think that would be acceptable to those who still use it. But the case
> for ß is weaker than for holam vav as ß is not phonetically distinct
> from ss but holam vav is pronounced very differently from vav plus holam.
Well _ß_ is distinguished from _ss_ in German because there is in theory
a distinction in pronunciation in respect to the preceding vowel, though
this doesn't always occur in everyone's speech or in all compound words.
Accordingly _ß_ is not used in Swiss German and the rules for the use of
_ß_ have changed somewhat in the recent German spelling reform within
A better example might be the conjoined _oe_ digraph in French. This is
normally missing from typwriters and also from many computer character
sets. But it would be rare not do disintinguish if from non-conjoined
_oe_ in typography. Here also the difference indicates a pronunciation
Yet I've talked to French speakers at various times some years back who
had never noticed the difference until I pointed it out to them. (Using
the _oe_ digraph in a Courier-style font tended to make them suddenly
aware of it, especially in a word in full capitals.)
Copy text in French often used the separarted _oe_ where the conjoined
_oe_ was typographically correct. I would always fix it. But
occasionally I would receive a complaint about the conjoined _oe_.
Asking the complainer to reference a French dictionary or any French
printed book was usually sufficient answer.
The dawning realization that they had probably seen this difference all
their lives and never noticed it was sometimes humorous to watch.
I expect more are aware of it now because the _oe_ digraph is included
in both Windows Codepage 1252 and MacRoman (as well as Unicode).
This case is very similar to the Hebrew case in that in both we have a
typographical variation which indicates a pronuciation difference, but
this typographical difference is not noticed by many native speakers of
the language even though they read texts that observe the difference.
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