Re: Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

From: suzanne mccarthy (
Date: Sat Oct 29 2005 - 16:54:06 CST

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics"

    I do see the difficulty in translating this term grammatically, so I don't think that the term 'syllabaires' will be replaced.
    However, it does lead to a misunderstanding, namely that you think that it is possibly a way to contract 'syllabary'.
    The historic circumstances of the original use of Syllabics is such that although it is used in Quebec, the major publisher in Syllabics was the Anglican Church in English-speaking communities in Northern Quebec, east side of James Bay, which were Anglican, while the west side of James Bay in Ontario was Catholic.
    Therefore, the term has had currency in English since 1840's but only in French more recently. I have tried to show you that when this term is used in French, they do, in fact, translate it as 'charateres syllabique' and 'ecriture syllabique'. This is not my invention but simply what is used.

    I hope this gives a better example of how Syllabics is referred to in French in Canada.
    "À la Memorial University, des concepteurs mirent au point une première police de caractères syllabiques; on put ainsi utiliser un logiciel tant pour trier les mots en vue de l'impression, que pour translittérer les caractères romains en syllabique. En janvier 1989, la version préliminaire était tirée à cent exemplaires à la Memorial University.

    I have just now found the reference for the discussion about how to name this block in ISO/IEC 10646.

    In section 1.1 the discussion is a detailed two lines long! In reading this article one can see how the authors automatically called Syllabics 'Syllabiques' in the introduction but after a brief discussion they decided to call is 'syllabaire', There is no indication that they consulted people who write about Syllabics in French.
    I accept that this name will never be changed because of the length of the name already, but this short discussion indicates just how much misunderstanding can come about because of this.
    I don't criticize the original choice of the name, in that it 'seemed' logical to someone at the time, and the term 'syllabaire cri' is used in French as an equivalent to 'Cree Syllabary', but I stress that the 'correct intended semantics' are not present.
    No translation will ever be satisfactory so I don't wish to prolong this. It is obvious that the name in French is established. However, I just wanted to point out that there is French translation for Syllabics that is not 'syllabaire'.
    Suzanne McCarthy
    Philippe Verdy <> wrote:
    From: suzanne mccarthy
    > I would assume that the French author who wrote 'syllabaires' didn't
    > really understand
    > the English semantics since Syllabics is the original *name* for the
    > system. It was not
    > a shortened invention in recent years but it is the Cree way of talking
    > about their writing
    > system in English and is in sense a proper noun as is.

    For your information, the list of French names were initially built by one
    member of the Canadian standard organization, and approved by it when it was
    submitted to ISO, where it was also approved by other French-speaking
    members, and endorsed by the ISO standard.

    Still, even today, French names for new characters and scripts are created
    and listed from a working registry that is Canadian, located in Quebec (if I
    remember well, it is on a server belonging to a project hosted and financed
    by the University of Laval, correct me if I'm wrong because I have not
    verified if this is still true now).

    You can't say that they don't understand very well both English and French,
    and that they don't know anything about the Cree culture. So the term
    commonly used in English does not have to match exactly the term commonly
    used in French in the Canadian context.

    It just appears that "Syllabics" is effectively a contraction of the more
    exact "Syllabic characters", transforming the adjective into a common name,
    and that such contraction (called "substantivation" in French) is not
    possible on French adjectives without an actual common usage (like
    "math魡tiques", "arithm鴩que",... all of them appearing as a contraction
    made by substantivation accepted in the common usage). But the substivation
    of adjectives ending in "-ique" would look strange because it could
    incorrectly imply that this means "sciences syllabiques", a non-sense when
    it should actually be a short way to designate "caract貥s syllabiques".

    France (or Belgium, Switzerland, etc...) has little to say about the correct
    names for designating those syllabaries and their syllabic characters,
    because it does not have enough expertise on this domain and rarely needs or
    use it. I am even wondering if there's an official linguistic department in
    some french university working on canadian aboriginal languages and their
    scripts, may be there are only some independant specialists, and libraries
    that have some copies of books related to these languages.

    So it seems natural to leave this subject discussed and approved between
    Canada and USA where those languages are significantly spoken and written,
    and where an higher level of expertise is available locally (there's
    apparently no significant american aboriginal community in Europe).

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