Re: Greek Characters Duplicated as Latin

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2011 16:09:20 +0200

2011/8/15 Jukka K. Korpela <>:
> 15.8.2011 13:36, Philippe Verdy wrote:
>> Don't be surprised then if you see the micro sign on all standard
>> French keyboards of computers (even those sold today). This is the
>> only Greek letter supported there.
> I remember that I was surprised at seeing that common Finnish keyboards
> world produce the micro sign when AltGr+M was used. Only a minority of
> keyboards have “µ” engraved, though.

On the opposite, a vast majority of French keyboards (at least all PC
keyboards) have it engraved on the shifted position of the key located
in the corner of the Enter key.

>> And I still don't know why OEMs thought at one time that it would be
>> more important to place this symbol on a well definite key, while at
>> the same time omitting the much more important œ ligature (and
>> forgetting the support of accented capitals)...
> Perhaps because the letter “œ” was regarded as a typographic ligature of “o”
> and “e” rather than a letter historically based on such a ligature. And
> because it has been common in French, and often even claimed to be correct,
> to omit diacritic marks from uppercase letters.
> It can still be difficult to convince keyboard designers about the need for
> “œ,” perhaps partly because the letter carries the word LIGATURE in its
> Unicode (rather unsymmetrically with “æ,” LATIN SMALL LETTER AE). As we
> know, the name will remain…

But in French, the name of the letter does not even use the term
"ligature". It is commonly spelled "o, e dans l'o", which is still
misleading because the o in that "ligature" does not play any role as
a vowel, but acts like a diaeresis diacritic, added on top of the "e"
whose role asa vowel is not modified (not even when it creates digrams
with a following letter (as in "cœur", "chœur", "bœuf"). However the
form of this diacritic "o" is still justified by etymology, which is
still remaining in related terms (e.g. "bœuf" related to ""bovin"). So
this letter results from a situation where it is not clear about which
letter to write: an etymologoc "o" (no longer pronounced) or a plain
"e" from the evolution of French phonology... Ideally there should be
only one letter there, the ligature is absolutely needed because
there's never been the intent of writing the two vowels

The role of the diacritic nature of the left-part "o" in "œ" is even
more evident when you see how the letter is used in other words like
"cœloquinte", where it phonemically modifies the mute "e" into a
closed /e/ (this situation is exceptional) — as if it was written "é",
including on how the "é" mutes the sound of the preceding "c" to make
it sound /s/ rather than /k/ — or more often in other words into an
/i/. But in "cœur", this diacritic "o" plays absolutely no phonemic
role on the following "e". It acts like a consonnant modifier, to
prevent the reading of "c" as /s/ (which normally happens when "c" is
written before "e" or "i", including when they have accents).

The history of letter "e" in French and how it was used and later
modified is quite complex (with its preservation in the orthography,
but the increasing mute role in modern phonology, it became even more
important to specifically mark those occurences of "e" that not only
had to voiced differently, but also those occurences of "e" whose
length quantity had to be preserved (in the contrasting /e/ vs. /ɛ/,
which is slowly disappearing in French, just like the differences of
stress and length have almost disappeared now, so that the written
difference between /è/ and /ê/ is no longer justified, except by
etymological tradition where the circumflex has often marked an elided
consonnant that muted to a distinctive stress then only to a
distinctive length no longer observed, except by some purists in
Northern France, or in the remaining French Canadian accent).

Today however, these contrasts are slowly disappearing (this loss of
contrast is much more advanced in Mediterranean French, and moderately
advanced in "International" standard French, even though it carries a
very contrasting accent, more aligned with the Parisian accent of
elites; for the popular vulgate Parisian French, and in northern
regional variants of French, the constrating vowel differences in
vowel quality, quantity and stress are not so evident: they do exist
but very differently, so much that even many of those "e" should be
written with another vowel, varying between "a" and "o", if there was
not a standard orthography).

> Even in new products where one might expect to see modern support to characters, “œ” is missing
> —for example, on my Android,
> when sending an SMS message, with language set to French, there is no direct
> way to type letters with diacritic marks or add the marks; and using
> predictive input, I can get French words mostly spelled properly (e.g.,
> input “garc” lets me select the word “garçon”), but not for “œ” (e.g., input
> “coe” lets me select “coeur” but not “cœur”).

This probably depends on the version of your phone : my Android 2.2
phone (by HTC) *does* support "œ", both on display and input
(including in the list of alternate letters when using the ABC mode
where we press the same key multiple times). It also includes it as
well in its XT9 dictionary (so I effectively can effectively see
"coeur" in the proposed XT9 list, but when I select it, the word mutes
automatically into "cœur", same thing when typing "boeuf" in the XT9
mode, which does not even require selecting the word in the list, as
there's only one choice, so it immedaitely mutes into "bœuf" ; and it
does the same for "curriculum vitæ", it allows me to write "cañon"
with the original spanish orthography rather than the modern "canyon"
orthography, by selecting it instead of "canon"; note that the letter
"ñ" is also selectable separately in the list of characters and digits
accessible from the "12#" mode key, which also includes "ÿ", "æ", and
"œ", as well as their capital versions when using the shift key)...
Received on Mon Aug 15 2011 - 09:11:49 CDT

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