Re: French accented letters (was: Re: Monetary decimal separators)

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sun Sep 18 2005 - 21:11:43 CDT

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    Philippe Verdy <verdy underscore p at wanadoo dot fr> wrote:

    >> Rightly or wrongly, it is still very easy to find reference sources
    >> that claim that accented lowercase letters in fr-FR lose, or may
    >> lose, their accents when converted to uppercase.
    > This is not only my own opinion. In fact now more and more french
    > users are irritated by the absence of accents on capitals with their
    > standard keyboard. All serious books (dictionaries, encyclopedias)
    > always contain those accents.

    I didn't say it was only your opinion. I know you are correct about
    this. I said it would be a good idea to cite authoritative references,
    so others will believe you as well.

    > I should add that capital vowels with grave are only supported because
    > Microsoft has extended the French keyboard by overriding the behavior
    > of AltGr+7 as a grave accent dead key instead of the legacy ASCII only
    > character.

    Then they are supported.

    > Also the AltGr key is a technical extension for PC, and not part of
    > the standard French keyboard which initially did not have it (it was
    > introduced by IBM just to allow inputing the missing ASCII character).

    ISO 9995-compliant keyboards are supposed to have a third shift state.
    PC keyboards implement this with AltGr, or equivalently Ctrl+Alt. Other
    platforms may implement it in different ways.

    > This means that OEM manufacturers can do something that will become a
    > recognized de facto standard, even in absence of a formal AFNOR
    > standard for France.

    This has always been true in the U.S. Perhaps AFNOR will recognize the
    value of Microsoft's de facto standard, and will revise the de jure
    standard accordingly.

    > ... For the oe/OE ligature, it is normally orthographic in French, but
    > still viewed as two distinct letters, so this does not create real
    > problems or confusion; it is rare enough and occurs in frequent words
    > for which there is no possible confusion. For the ae/AE ligature, it
    > is only typographic and used in rare cases for pedantic words of Latin
    > origin; it is also perceived as two distinct letters, so this is not a
    > problem too.

    Some French speakers have argued that "oe" versus "œ" does matter, and
    the lack of U+0152 and U+0153 in ISO 8859-1 means that encoding does not
    support French. I would not want to be the one to tell them they are

    > The diaeresis is even more rare in French, and exceptional on capitals
    > (in fact I can't find immediately an example of a French word which
    > may start with a capital vowel with diaeresis...). But it benefits of
    > its own dead key too, so no problem to input it even in the unfrequent
    > cases where it is needed and required both phonetically and
    > orthographically...

    As with the capital U with grave, or capital C with cedilla, you will
    always find someone who wants to set an ordinary word in all capitals
    for some reason, even if this is not standard French practice as you
    state. There is little reason for a keyboard layout to support one but
    not the other. If the layout provides a dedicated key for the lowercase
    letter but requires a dead-key combination for the uppercase, that is
    still better than not allowing the uppercase at all (cf. the Italian

    Doug Ewell
    Fullerton, California

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