Re: What justification for separately encoding two forms of lowercase sigma

From: André Szabolcs Szelp (
Date: Tue Sep 08 2009 - 06:37:04 CDT

  • Next message: verdy_p: "Re: What justification for separately encoding two forms of lowercase sigma"

    Actuall, _long_s_ has been used not only contextually, but also
    orthographically versus _short_s_.
    Mediaeval and Early Modern orthographies of Slovene use the distinction to
    mark the difference between IPA [s] and [z].

    While the algorithmically indeterminable way of using long vs. short s in
    many instances over its use in Latin paleography and typesetting might be
    and was indeed one argument for encoding them separately, this
    abovementioned example is a definite instance of separate characterhood.


    On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 2:28 AM, verdy_p <> wrote:

    > "Michael Everson" wrote:
    > > On 23 Aug 2009, at 14:08, David Starner wrote:
    > >
    > > > Greek is a simple script. You have a choice of duplicating one
    > > > character, like has always been done for Greek keyboards, or you can
    > > > force all the Greek users to learn how to use characters like ZWJ--in
    > > > fact forcing them to think in Unicode terms--so one character can be
    > > > saved and the encoding is arguably theoretically a bit cleaner. It's
    > > > not worth the trade-off.
    > >
    > > This is a splendid argument for the disunification of some Greek
    > > characters for Latin IPA. :-)
    > Why that? Latin also has its own contextual forms, even if they are now
    > deprecated in most modern usages ; think
    > about the long form of the small s (historically used in initial and medial
    > positions and preferred in most cases)
    > and the current "normal" form of the small s (historically correct only at
    > final positions of morphemes), it is
    > exactly similar to the case of the two forms for small sigma.
    > It also exhibit the same caveats about the impossibility to determine
    > algorithmically how to choose between the two
    > forms (in modern Latin, the choice has been made and changed the historical
    > preference).
    > But there still remains some ambiguities about the choice of the letter
    > forms for small a (once you start making
    > distinctions in them, by borrowing the Greek small alpha into Latin as a
    > distinct letter), and this impacts the
    > still common cursive style used by Latin hand writing (even though the
    > usage of this cursive style is slowly
    > decreasing now, given that many schools do not teach the cursive forms of
    > Latin letters before more advanced
    > education levels, and that many people are now so much exposed to numeric
    > texts rendered on screens that they have
    > completely forgotten how to use the cursive style correctly; there might
    > even be countries where the cursive style
    > of Latin is not taught at all in schools).
    > There still remains however, even within people that now use the non
    > cursive style exclusively, a lot of people that
    > use only the form without the long harm above, and thzt just draw a short
    > vertival stroke, or draw their small a
    > letters like small alphas, with a single curved stroke instead of two with
    > the usual forms used on printed and
    > displayed texts; they don't perceive the difference as significant enough
    > to justify them to change the way they
    > handwrite their texts on paper: the single curved stroke is just
    > faster/simpler for them to draw manually if they
    > don't use the cursive style.
    > But once you start thinking about the cursive handwritten Latin style
    > (which is still popular, including in typed
    > documents like ads, logos and trademarks, title decorations), there are a
    > lot of contextual forms for many letters
    > (in fact for most consonnants). The long s form is just one of them that
    > may have disappeared today, even if it
    > remains in typed books. You think that they are ligatures, but it's not
    > entirely true given that the contextual
    > forms are simple local adaptation to the cursive joining, and the fact that
    > ligatures are often more complex, and
    > are created by:
    > - simplifications of this contextual cursive forms (to ease their drawing
    > and produce more "fluid" calligaphy
    > without repositioning the pen),
    > - with additional strokes or strokes merged together (such as the
    > horizontal stroke in the middle of two successive
    > 'f' or 't',
    > - or the continued strokes in the ligatures like 'ct',
    > - or strokes that are drawn in the opposite direction,
    > - or strokes that disappear completely.
    > The presence of additional diacritics may also change the distribution of
    > ligatures as these diacritics have to be
    > dranw sometime by breaking the current cursive line often in the middle of
    > the same word, diabling the formation of
    > the ligature at this breaking position.
    > Consider the two contextual letter forms of the lowercase 'l' (also in
    > cursive style) that can appear after a vowel
    > or a 'p/c/d/h...' and compare it to the alternate form after a lowercase
    > 'b' : the joining type and position plays a
    > role similar to the joining types in Arabic (which is still usually written
    > and printed in cursive style). In fact
    > the cursive contexutal interactions between letters in Latin are probably
    > even more complex than in Arabic, even if
    > the "kernel" part of the Latin letters remains generally identifiable.
    > Consider also the difference between the final and non-final forms of
    > cursive letters with a leg (f, g, j, p, y, z):
    > in final positions, the legs are often left open below the base line, and
    > typically drawn below the previous
    > letters, without creating a loop to join the next letter, or a simpler form
    > is used without any leg (z for example).
    > What happens in Greek is then not exceptional, and happens in Latin too.
    > This is not an argument for IPA as Latin
    > (even if it has been historically specified as accepting the cursive style,
    > something abandonned today).
    > Conclusion: Really IPA may have been created to harmonize with Latin, but
    > the reality is that today, IPA only has to
    > harmonize with itself only, i.e. as a script separate from Latin too... So
    > it does not borrow, by itself, Greek
    > letters into Latin, but only within its own script.

    Szelp, André Szabolcs
    +43 (650) 79 22 400

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Sep 08 2009 - 06:41:13 CDT