Re: Exemplifying apostrophes

From: Jim Allan (
Date: Mon May 19 2008 - 19:59:02 CDT

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "RE: Exemplifying apostrophes"

    Philippe Verdy wrote:

    > On the opposite there's the case of glottal stops, ayin, and similar
    > sounds like consonnnantal clicks or centralized vowels: they need a
    > letter, not a letter modifier, because they can frequently occur in
    > leading position like other consonnants or vowels. And their letter form
    > is also normally distinct from apostrophes: they should never be a
    > vertical tick like a the ASCII quote, and they are slightly turned and
    > effectively curved and also normally dissymetric in their form; these
    > letters should also be visibly distinct from the elision apostrophe and
    > the punctuation quotes... (they may be distinct from spacing accents but
    > this is not strictly required in those languages as they don't need
    > spacing accents).

    You mean “Spacing Modifier Letter”, Philippe, not “letter modifier”.
    Don’t repeat Chris’s minor error as though it had some meaning in
    Unicode. As to whether a character can appear in leading position, that
    signifies nothing. Read the Unicode manual:

    “Modifier letters are an assorted collection of small signs that are
    generally used to indicate modifications of a preceding letter. A few
    may modify the following letter, and some may serve as independent letters.”

    It is not for Unicode to tell scholars that they must not use shapes
    that match curly apostrophes to indicate letters in Semitic languages,
    especially when that has been the standard for over a century. Whether
    they are called “letters” or “spacing modifier letters” really doesn’t

    The translation glyphs for ʼaleph and ʻayan are usually either
    absolutely identical to the English single quotation sorts in whatever
    font is used or are the variant characters U+02BD MODIFIER LETTER RIGHT
    the characters you mention that differ from both these (other than the
    very different characters in standard Egyptian Latin-letter
    transcriptions). They certainly aren’t standard usage in the works I’ve

    Use of the straight apostrophe for ʼaleph was quite correct on English
    typewriters and is often seen in books from the period of the fifties
    and sixties when typewritten books were quite common for works requiring
    what were called special characters. In such books ʻayan appears mostly
    as a raised letter c created by manually turning the typewriter roller
    down a bit and then typing c.

    In computer texts of a later period, in works not using TeX or LaTeX, it
    was common to indicate ʼaleph by ASCII 27, which might come out as
    either a straight apostrophe or a curly apostrophe, and to indicate
    ʻayan by ASCII 60 which came out as either a grave accent or a reversed
    apostrophe corresponding to Unicode U+02BD MODIFIER LETTER REVERSE COMMA.

    Of course, these were always intended as fall backs for the proper
    typographical characters. But they were not incorrect in themselves
    within the technology that produced them.

    The real problem is the most fonts don’t support the Spacing Modifier
    Letter apostrophe characters. For example the Macintosh Hawaiian
    keyboard properly puts out the ʻokina character as U+02BB. But most
    available fonts, so far as I know, don’t bother to support it. One must
    use a limited set of fonts if typing Hawaiian or use the standard
    English open quotation mark instead of the ʻokina.

    Now one could build into the Unicode systems on operating systems a
    table of substitute glyphs, whereby if one of the characters was missing
    from a font, then the glyph attached to the substitute character would
    be used. This would mean that any font that contained the curly
    quotation marks would automatically use the same glyphs for the spacing
    modifier letter apostrophe characters and so forth with other glyph
    clones, for example two of the click characters.

    Jim Allan

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