Re: apostrophes

From: Jukka K. Korpela (
Date: Fri May 19 2006 - 23:39:39 CDT

  • Next message: Steve Summit: "Re: apostrophes"

    On Fri, 19 May 2006, Steve Summit wrote:

    > Today, however, U+02BC is relegated to use as a true modifier
    > letter (as its name suggests), and U+2019 is explicitly preferred
    > for both apostrophes *and* single quotes. Does anyone know the
    > rationale for this change?

    The change is described at
    under "4.6 Apostrophe Semantics Errata", as one of "corrigenda" that
    "clarify the semantics of different apostrophes". In reality, it was a
    semantic change, as you describe.

    I think we can read the rationale as being implicit in the explanation.
    U+02BC MODIFIER LETTER APOSTROPHE is a _letter_ (even by its formal
    category), so it wasn't quite logical, and it wasn't quite practical (for
    lexical scanning, for example) to recommend using it to represent what we
    commonly regard as (punctuation) apostrophe.

    > (Me, I'd really like to distinguish apostrophes from quotes in
    > textual data, as they're obviously quite different semantically.)

    Many people have expressed the same view. It would meant that a new
    character would have been defined, for unambiguous use as punctuation
    apostrophe. I don't think traditional or modern typography ever
    distinguises between a punctuation apostrophe and a right single quotation
    mark (even though such distinction might be useful in some situations, in
    texts containing both of them close to each other). Thus, the difference
    would be _purely_ semantic. Would people really want to make such
    distinctions in writing?

    Similarly, the use of the full stop character "." as a sentence
    termination (period) is semantically quite distinct from its use in
    abbreviations (as in "Mr."), and its use as a decimal separator (in
    English) or as a thousands separator (in many other languages) are
    semantically distinct, too. Making distinctions on purely semantic
    grounds, for a character that is commonly understood as one character with
    multiple uses, would apparently have opened a can of worms.

    Jukka "Yucca" Korpela,

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