Re: Medievalist ligature character in the PUA

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Fri Dec 18 2009 - 18:14:12 CST

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    On 12/18/2009 2:59 PM, Eric Muller wrote:
    > On 12/17/2009 4:37 AM, Karl Pentzlin wrote:
    >> As the mentioned Wikipedia entries explain, there is no ligature
    >> allowed across constituents of composite words, which are common in
    >> German.
    >> Thus, in "Affe" (monkey) a ff ligature is to be applied (although
    >> the word division Af-
    >> fe is correct), while in "Schaffell" (fleece of sheep, composed of
    >> "Schaf" sheep + "Fell" fleece) no ff ligature is allowed.
    > Is there easily accessible code+data that determines, given a word,
    > the points where ligatures are allowed/not allowed?
    > Is the problem amenable to a pattern-based implementation, similar to
    > hyphenation patterns?
    No. It's strictly speaking impossible.

    To give just one example:

    Wachs + tube
    Wach + stube

    both have the same letters. One may have the st ligature, the other not.
    (Both would have a mandatory ch ligature, if typeset in Fraktur).

    The meaning of the two compounds are utterly unrelated, and they are
    pronounced differently. If you ligate incorrectly, your use of ligation
    would clash with the meaning of the word as predicted by context.

    The effect is possibly a bit more subtle than an overt typo because most
    readers don't make conscious note of ligatures. However, due to the fact
    that component boundaries are not marked, experienced readers probably
    respond to such cues subconsciously when faced with the need to "take
    apart" (i.e. analyze) a compound. If a compound is unusual (or even
    ambiguous, as in the above example) correct non-ligation is a helpful clue.
    > Do the no-ligature points correspond to hyphenation points where a
    > spelling change is required according to traditional orthography?
    A spelling change is (was) required for "ck", for example, when at at a
    syllable boundary. Nothing prevents ligatures at an ordinary syllable
    boundary, only at those points where you would (hypothetically) insert a
    space if you were to write out the components of a compound word
    separately (indicated by a "+" in the examples above).

    Hyphenation is also strictly speaking impossible w/o reference to
    meaning. The example above can be hyphenated at the "+" and also in
    front of the "be". The same string of letters has two different
    hyphenation depending on the intended meaning.

    Hyphenation has other issues that very much complicate pattern analysis.
    The standard example in German is


    "Ur" is a common prefix, meaning ancestral or original, and, like so
    many prefixes, can be separated by a hyphen.
    Instinkt (instinct) can normally be hyphenated after the "In". However,
    when you put everything together, you should disallow that hyphenation,
    because otherwise you get


    (which, except for the hyphen, reads very much like "urine stinks").

    For hyphenation you can handle those issues by a list of exceptional
    words. But nothing helps you with ambiguous compounds like "Wachstube".

    (Quick: which sense of it did I intend in the previous sentence? Right -
    there's no context, so only I, as the author know. Given a font with st
    ligation, I could have communicated my choice.)


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