Apostrophe, was: Security Issues: Navajo

From: Peter Kirk (peterkirk@qaya.org)
Date: Tue Mar 29 2005 - 10:49:36 CST

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    On 27/03/2005 22:57, Jon Hanna wrote:

    > ...
    >What we need is some sort of machine that can manipulate characters encoded
    >as numbers and do some sort of computation to produce other characters.
    >Given the need for computation in this process I suggest we call such
    >machines "computers".
    What we also need is some sort of software which will do this
    computation correctly and reliably. Given the present inability of
    software to do this, I suggest that we call such software "*#@!". (Fill
    in the gap as appropriate - and I challenge any software to do what I
    intended with those double quotes!)

    Seriously, the problem is that software can only know how to do "smart
    quotes" etc if it knows the author's intention. And, failing direct
    brain access, it needs to determine that from the keys pressed. It is
    perhaps fortunate, or perhaps deliberate, that Unicode has not attempted
    to define different characters for the English word final possessive
    apostrophe and for a closing single quote, because there is no way to
    distinguish these by context, at least within incomplete text. And even
    a complete sentence can be ambiguous, as in the following (where does
    the quote end?):

    'Don't shoot his brothers' two boys' mother said.

    But, especially if the language of a text is not clearly specified, in
    the current specification there are cases where the correct apostrophe
    behaviour is not known from the immediate context. Because I do
    multilingual computing I have had to turn off the smart quotes facility
    in my software to avoid corrupting text which is not pure English.

    Peter Kirk
    peter@qaya.org (personal)
    peterkirk@qaya.org (work)
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