Re: orthographies (was: Re: Capitalization (Was: 03F3 j Greek Letter yot)

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sat Feb 19 2005 - 15:01:02 CST

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    Gregg Reynolds <unicode at arabink dot com> wrote:

    >> ... Emoti[c]ons are clearly part of the semantics; it is just not
    >> traditional to add it in text.
    > Which calls to mind the factoid that we old geezers tend to forget:
    > new text communication technologies (esp. the various kinds of instant
    > messaging) beget new orthographies. Seems highly likely to me that
    > within a generation or two ideas of "standard orthography" will change
    > radically, so basing tech standards on our current notions of
    > correctness seems questionable. Emoticons have already become part of
    > the (electronically) written language.

    The problem here is defining what we mean by "standard" orthography.
    Thanks to text messaging and vanity license plates and such, stuff like
    "cul8r" is recognizable to more and more people. But it's not something
    you would write in a research paper, or even expect to read in your
    daily newspaper, except maybe in a feature article *about* this type of
    abbreviations or the subcultures that create them.

    In English today, there is a "standard" orthography, which certainly
    does not include "cul8r" or smileys or "BTW" or "OTOH", and then there
    are "non-standard," but common, orthographies for things like text
    messaging or writing e-mails on public mailing lists. There is nothing
    wrong with these orthographies for their intended purposes, but I don't
    think you can apply the word "standard" to them.

    OTOH, spellings and usages do sometimes migrate into standard or formal
    language. "E-mail" used to be a jargon term itself.

    > E.g. cul8r = see you later. It's not so hard to imagine 'pidgin'
    > orthographies that mix scripts and languages lasciviously, as economic
    > and cultural globalization continues apace. I'll bet this is already
    > common in various Asian technically sophisticated subcultures mixing
    > bits of English into their electronic messages; it's not so hard to
    > imagine bits of Asian text being adopted in English language messaging
    > over the next 50 years as e.g. China and India exert more and more
    > cultural influence in the wake of economic expansion. So why not in
    > URLs?

    If you're talking about CJK characters in otherwise-English messages and
    URLs, you won't see that until English speakers (not just recent
    immigrants, either) learn how to use IMEs to type them in. I'm not
    holding my breath. Most Americans don't even know how to type an Ä.

    > Then again maybe such mixing is not actually occurring. Here's my
    > question for you speakers of Russian, Korean, Hebrew, etc. etc.: when
    > the kids in your area communicate via text messaging, do they mix
    > scripts and languages? (I'm almost certain this happens in Japanese.)
    > I'm assuming that each language community is inventing its own
    > shorthand orthography for such messaging, along the lines of 'cul8r'.

    I remember reading that text messaging on cell phones in (South) Korea
    is highly advanced and wildly popular, due to the extreme ease of
    entering Hangul. It's an alphabet, as we know, and apparently the
    software is quite good at switching from "consonant mode" to "vowel
    mode" and anticipating common syllables. Under those conditions, Korean
    speakers would have no particular motivation for switching to Latin.

    It would be fun to see sk8r-type abbreviations in Cyrillic and Hangul.

    -Doug Ewell
     Fullerton, California

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