Re: Exemplifying apostrophes

From: Jim Allan (
Date: Thu May 22 2008 - 22:36:51 CDT

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    I apologize for speaking out term on this forum.

    Ken Whistler’s email arrived surrounded in my email client by other
    genuine posts. I have very seldom received private
    communications from those in forums, and when I have done so, they were
    obviously private communications, often marked so at the beginning of
    the message: e.g. “Private communication” or “Offline”.

    That said, my comments were exactly what I intended to post in any case,
    though I might not have gotten around to it in the end.

    In any case, given Philippe’s explanation, it is obvious what he meant,
    which is not really what he posted. And I still find much of that
    original post impenetrable to my understanding, with his talk cedillas
    and so forth. He seems to be talking about things like, to give an
    example he does not mention, the letter s before a consonant in French
    ceasing to be pronounced at which point the preceding vowel is
    lengthened and the s was often still written but in superscript form to
    mark both the lengthening and to show that s was once pronounced. Then
    this superscript s decayed still further to a superscript accent over
    the lengthened preceding vowel, unless there was already an accent
    there, in which case it was lost.

    But this has nothing at all to do with Unicode, which is a system
    intended to allow users to represent the text before them, without
    usually worrying about how or whether a particular letter is a full
    letter or a modifier letter or not pronounced at all.

    Phlippe’s four uses of the apostrophe are true, but he might also have
    included four uses of the base-line dot to indicate:

    1.) Full stop.
    2.) One dot leader.
    4.) Abbreviation terminator.
    3.) Decimal point (in some conventions).

    Only the first two are encoded separately in Unicode, and the leader dot
    is at least sometimes slightly smaller when it appears in text and, if
    appearing in a run of characters, may have different spacing than the
    full stop.

    He might also include four uses of A/a:

    1.) Alphabetic letter.
    2.) “First” in a counting sequence.
    3.) The quantity corresponding to decimal 10 in hexadecimal notation and
    in higher base notation.
    4.) An abbreviation for “ampere” (uppercase only).

    This leads to something close to madness. I’d sooner stick with he
    current Unicode system where it is suggested that an apostrophe shape is
    represented by one value if it has a letter meaning, that is, represents
    a single phone in a language (even if that phone is no longer
    pronounced) and a different value if it represents punctuation elision
    or a modifier (not “modifier letter” which too confusing a term.)

    Chris Harvey’s suggestion of throwing out everything but the punctuation
    apostrophe may be what will happen, in non-technical English text at
    least by many folk.

    David Starner wrote:

    >> If nothing else, all the French text that has spaces around the
    >> semicolons isn't suddenly going get the spaces removed and the text
    >> tagged as French, and any cases where the spaces appear in English
    >> text is going to get a sharply negative response from the Anglophone
    >> world,especially that part which can't imagine anyone anywhere doing
    >> it differently.

    António MARTINS-Tuválkin responded:

    > Being an part-time typesetter in
    > Portugal, all that spacing around colons and and semicolons used in
    > French texts strike me as definitely odd.

    Yet additional spacing before colon and semi-colon is also reasonably
    common in English. At least I notice it at times.

    For one example easily available, my copies of all the books by
    Christopher Tolkien containing his father’s writing from /The
    Silmarillion/ onwards (except for the recent book /The Children of
    Húrin/) have noticeable half-spaces before semi-colons and colons. I
    went to my shelves to check some older books. The first one I pulled
    down was a 1960 photographic reprint of Lucy Allen Paton’s /Studies in
    the Fairy Mythology of Arthurian Romance/ originally published in 1902
    at Radcliffe College. Here also there are half-spaces before colon,
    semi-colon, and also before the question mark.

    But yes, when I notice it, it also strikes me as odd. But I wonder how
    often I don’t notice it.

    This shows that language tagging is the wrong tool for indicating such
    things. Printing in any language should be allowed to look odd.

    But should someone quoting such texts include the spacing before colon
    and semi-colon in their quotations? I imagine the custom would be that
    for quoting English one would normally use whatever system one is using
    in unquoted text, but when quoting French, one would include the
    punctuation spacing regardless of one’s normal English use.

    John Hudson wrote:

    > After all, we're all still too lazy to key in the proper quotation
    marks :)

    Well, some of us, I guess.

    Doug Ewell wrote:

    > I'm the same age as Michael, give or take a few weeks, and since I
    > never took a formal typing class, I have no idea where I learned to
    > type two spaces between sentences. But it's how I type, and I don't
    > plan to give it up any time soon.

    At some place or time I learned that this rule only applied to typing,
    because in non-proportional text the sentence-terminating full stop,
    centred in a letter space (effectively with a half-space in front of it)
    looks better when followed by two spaces. In printed text a single space
    looks better. I know that some journals insisted on this double-spacing
    between sentences in submissions.

    I think it did look better to me, at the time also and even now, when
    the typing is in a fixed width font. But with word-processors and
    computer technology and mostly typing in proportional fonts I’ve gotten
    out of that habit.

    Jim Allan

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