Re: Germa Umlaut (was: String name and Character Name)

From: Hans Aberg (
Date: Mon Apr 25 2005 - 10:38:47 CST

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    At 15:48 +0200 2005/04/25, Otto Stolz wrote:
    >you have written:
    >>The Swedish language symbol (a with two dots
    >>above) is a separate letter, not to be viewed
    >>as an alteration of the letter a. So it is
    >>atomic. It is reasonable to enter it as a
    >>separate character. In German, however it is an
    >>umlaut, alteration of the letter a.
    >Not quite so: It has its own phonetic value (almost equal to its
    >Swedish sibling, IIRC), and is taugh as seperate character in schools
    >(believe me, I am German and interested in linguistic issues, and my
    >wife is a teacher at an elementary school).
    >The term "Umlaut" for a class of characters does not render these
    >umlauts as non-characters. There is a similar term, "Ablaut", e. g.
    >for the "a" and "o" in "barst" and "geborsten" (from "bersten") --
    >yet, this does not qualify "a" and "o" as non-characters, alterations
    >of "e".

    Let's take it easy: I attempted to make a formal
    definition of the notion of an abstract
    character, not to be confused with the many
    possible intuitive notions of a character. When
    defining an abstract character, I suggested that
    it should be a linguistic semantic unit that in
    some sense or another is atomic. There, the point
    is that symbols like can be atomized in more
    ways than one: It could be viewed as a whole,
    indivisible unit, or a composite of more than one
    characters. The choice may depend on the context.

    The second point, though, is that the preference
    for larger symbols be viewed as a single
    character, as regards to computer software,
    probably is due to limitations of this computer
    software. It would probably be better, computer
    implementationwise, to always represent symbols
    like as a combination of smaller, abstract
    characters, as a sufficiently smart computer
    program always can recognize the Swedish or
    German letter , and give it the proper handling,
    and as we now know that the representing of
    characters in a single or a bibyte will not
    suffice anyhow.

       Hans Aberg

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