Re: dashes, hyphens, minus signs (was: apostrophes)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Thu May 25 2006 - 12:38:36 CDT

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    From: "Adam Twardoch" <>
    > Philippe Verdy wrote:
    >> Note that the primary level of speaches from persons who are in the main subject and time of the book just uses a long hyphen (with extra indications about who is speaking).
    > Long hyphen? What's that? You mean a long dash, like an en dash or an em
    > dash? That's the typical way of indicating dialogue for example in
    > Polish books. Example:

    Yes a long dash if you prefer:

        – "hyphen" in English is "trait d’union" in French but it is used only for creating compound words; for the hyphenation mark in the middle of a word andvisible only at end of a line (U+00AD) we say "césure" or "tiret de césure", often abbreviated "tiret" in grammar books for schools, but never "trait d’union". The ASCII punctuation "minus-hyphen" looks more like the "trait d’union" (hyphen) or "tiret de césure" (hyphenation mark U+00AD), rather than like a minus sign (because it is often too short when compared to the other figure-width plus sign)

        – "dash" in English is unambiguously "tiret" in French; an "en-dash" is just called "tiret", rarely "tiret court"; an "em-dash" is called "tiret long". The punctuation at the begining of this paragraph is a "tiret" or "tiret court" (en-dash) — but not a "trait d’union" and not a "tiret de césure", and not even a "signe moins" (minus sign).

    Note that the term French term "tiret" is also used in "tiret bas" (alternate name "souligné" is often found) to designate the ASCII "underscore" symbol (U+005F), and often as a descriptive alternative to the spacing "macron" in "tiret haut" — derived from the combining accents also named "tiret en chef" (combining macron above), or "tiret souscrit" (combining macron below), and alternatively named by the French adjective "long" (long in English) added after the name of the vowel it modifies, notably in French books and reference documents about foreign grammar, transcription and phonetic (IPA notation).

    So the concepts are not exactly equivalent, and this leads to confusions from me (and this confusion also exists in many English sources...). There are many confusions about this, and this explains why all those dashes, hyphens, and minus signs are collated together at the primary level (and in the IDN's NamePrep which is a transformation based on the default primary collation level and on other "weak" compatibility equivalences).

    The linguistic concepts are clear and have long traditions; the thing that is not clear is which character isused to represent them, as there are many styles, influenced by typographic styles, or technical compatibility or limitations (notably for the minus sign in programming languages and in many plain-text documents restricted to the ASCII subset...)

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