Re: French accented letters

From: Jukka K. Korpela (
Date: Wed Sep 21 2005 - 01:34:39 CDT

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    On Tue, 20 Sep 2005, Eric Muller wrote:

    > Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
    >> Since the letter ae, ę/Ę, popped up, I think I need to ask why it is
    >> considered as a letter used in French.
    > ęgagropile, ęgosome, ępyornis, cęcal, cęcum, cęsium, nęvus, nęvi, tędium
    > vitę, curriculum vitę
    > (Petit Robert, 1987). And it's not a ligature: Caen, not Cęn.

    So it seems that the situation is basically the same as in English: words
    of Latin origin (or of Greek origin, but received via Latin,
    where alpha iota had become "ae") containing "ae" may (with some
    exceptions, often indicated by a diaeresis in writing Latin, e.g. "aėr")
    be written using "ę". There might be a difference in the sense that for
    French, the "ę" spelling is preferred by authorities, whereas for English,
    it's mostly just a somewhat dated-looking variant (probably mainly
    appearing in British English). I wonder if this justifies making "ę" a
    required character for French and not even an auxiliary character for
    English, in the CLDR.

    Interestingly, when I looked up some of the words in the online version of
    the Dictionnaire de l'Académie, ,
    I found that it indeed uses the "ę" spelling, but I was able to find the
    entries only by using "ae" (e.g., "caecal") in my input (e.g., "cęcal"
    finds nothing).

    There's no "ę" in the French keyboard, so anyone who wants to use it needs
    to learn some special way to enter it. In HTML authoring, you can write
    æ, which is reasonably mnemonic, but in MS Word, I noticed that the
    method Ctrl-Shift-6 a (which produces "ę" when the keyboard setting is
    e.g. US English, on my computer) produces nothing when the keyboard
    setting is French. Yet Ctrl-Shift-6 o produces the letter oe.

    In practice, it seems that words with "ę" in their official (?) spelling
    are mostly written with "ae". (Compare e.g. Google searches with
    "aegosome" and "+ęgosome". Note that by Google search rules, "ęgosome"
    without a plus sign matches "aegosome", too.)

    > You get to decide of the usefulness of "the characters necessary to write" a
    > language.

    Indeed. For example, suppose someone invents some very high technology
    device that - due to the requirements of the technology at the current
    state of the art - supports a limited character repertoire only. If we can
    trust on the CLDR data, we can just take the collection of characters
    (which could be just anything) and match it against the exemplarchars
    definitions, and get automatically a list of languages that can be
    _acceptably_ (though perhaps not typographically perfectly) written using
    those characters. Would you like to have French dropped out just because
    the repertoire of the device does not include "ę"? Similar considerations
    apply using a special-design font, with very artistic goals, therefore
    with a limited repertoire of characters, e.g. for headings in documents.

    Jukka "Yucca" Korpela,

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