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

From: Antoine Leca (
Date: Mon Sep 19 2005 - 06:17:25 CDT

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: French accented letters (was: Re: Monetary decimal separators)"

    On Monday, September 19th, 2005 10:16Z Doug Ewell 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.

    "May loose" is correct: the expected (in France) behaviour is this one. Yet
    there are people which does not expect it (and complain loudly); and usually
    people do not complain very loud about the uppercase being accentauted,
    since it is perfectly understandable (the reverse does not hold); usually
    high-quality softwares deal with this with an user-configurable option while

    "Lose": I am not sure you will find that much reference. In fact, if you
    find one that explain this (that is, that accents _should_ be dropped), it
    would be undervalued by any professionnal, probably with comments such as
    "this is intended only for casual typists, not careful work." Similarly for
    softwares that force that behaviour while not required by the underlying

    > If this is not, or no longer,

    It has never been the case: accents over lowercase have been invented at the
    same time as it were over uppercase; printings from XVII c. abound to show
    examples of this.

    > the case, it would be helpful for the relevant authorities to

    You expect the secretary of French Académie to write a letter to the
    publisher (a website, a grammar) of such information? sorry, it does not
    work that way. The job of the Académie is to collect current and correct
    usage, and to reflect it. Bad (in the eye of the beholder) usage is still
    usage, and if it lasts long it may even overwhelm the previously seen as
    correct one (we have numerous examples in the evolution of the erratic
    French orthography.)

    What is generally seen as authoritative in the professional world (that is,
    the equivalents of Chicago's Manual of style) are not that much praised in
    France, particularly outside the professional world (typographers,
    lexicographers.) Perhaps relevant is the fact that the author of the highly
    praised grammar is a Belgian, not a French.

    > to contact these sources and politely ask them to
    > correct their information.

    Done. In fact, many people view the Canadian way (they are clearly the
    leaders for this fight) to having went well beyond the "polite" point on
    this one...
    Usually, serious publishers and vendors are willingful to learn, well they
    usually learn very quickly and stop defending the dropping of accents (OK,
    there will always be trolls.)
    This let us with the less serious ones, and those that do not have the
    resources; along with the trolls. To be sorted out.

    <DIGRESSION toward="nowhere">

    > Partly relevant to this is the perception that in Italian, the
    > uppercase form of é is E'.

    I do not believe this is the underlying reason.
    Yes this solution was chosen for Italian (partly because usually Italian
    marks the stress only on the last vowel in a word, so the accent usually
    fall on the last letter in the word, which makes the fall-back less ugly),
    but I do not believe it was the driving reason to encounter this in French
    I rather believe the underlying fact (that accents over capitals were easily
    brocken) drove two different solutions, dropping all the accents over
    capitals in French (or Spanish), while masquerading it with apostrophe in
    A century or more later, when typewriters came in with a limited numbers of
    keys, various solutions were designed, deadkeys for all 'accents' for
    Spanish because it was the only practical, so even if overstriking accents
    over capitals was ugly it worked; only lower case for Italian (dropping by
    the way the less used ó on the keyboard, if I understand correctly) while
    retaining the masquerading for Italian; and a mixed-cooked solution for
    French, with direct keys for the most used accentuated lower case letters,
    deadkeys for less used ^ and ¨, and no solution to the uppercase accentuated
    letters (neither for Ç, which I find a bigger problem in practice, because
    of the widely difference in prononciation the mistake induce.)

    > This idea exists because the standard Italian keyboard contains
    > a key for lowercase é but not for uppercase É.

    That is too much elaborated for me to follow you. Are you actually saying
    that localizers had a look at the Italian keyboard layout to figure the
    rules to uppercasing French?
    If those localizers were French, it would be awkward at best.
    If those localizers were US Americans (the only logical alternative), I not
    believe so: first I guess many (all?) US Americans involved in i18n know
    that French is also spoken in Canada, which would be a easier reference to
    deal with (and which indeed have uppercase É, on keyboards and in their
    specific codepages etc. Might give hints...) Then French was part of the
    'basic' packages (along with UK £, German and Mexican Spanish) of locales,
    so done earlier than Italian which was part only of the second shipments,
    about at the moment when they realize the issue of keyboards and similar
    nightmares... (thus the fr-FR vs fr-CA, or it-IT vs it_CH etc.)



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