RE: Keyboard terminology

From: Edward Cherlin (
Date: Fri May 11 2001 - 00:18:47 EDT

At 11:59 PM +0300 5/10/01, Jonathan Rosenne wrote:
>With Windows in many cases it is definitely a language.

Microsoft distinguishes clearly between different keyboard layouts
and locales for the same language.

>You select which
>keyboard languages you want, and you switch them either with the mouse or with
>Alt-Shift. The system already knows which keyboard layout you have - 101 in my
>case - and offers several choices.

That may well work for you, but we are speaking of the general case,
where users of a language may require a choice of keyboard layouts
and even of writing systems for the same language, and in the extreme
case may have more than one physical keyboard attached.

Consider me as a counterexample to your assertion. When I use
Windows, I have both QWERTY and Dvorak installed on my computer for
Latin alphabet English, so that others can use it without learning
Dvorak. I type German, French, Italian, Spanish and other languages
from my English Latin keyboard layouts, and do not use the French
AZERTY or German QWERTZ layouts. I have multiple input choices on the
menu for Chinese, including Cangie, Pinyin, and Zhuyin, and two for
Japanese. I type both Hebrew and Yiddish in slightly different Hebrew
script keyboard layouts. (The layout with the extra Yiddish
combinations is not provided with Windows.) I use both modern and
polytonic Greek keyboards. Now I admit that I am not the average
user, but I contend that I do represent the general case fairly well,
although some others here have gone further.

>In Israel, the normal choice is Hebrew and English, although other
>of two or three languages are possible and in use.

And in Israel and the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, people
type Yiddish in the Hebrew alphabet on Hebrew or Yiddish keyboards,
and the Latin alphabet on German QWERTZ or English QWERTY keyboards.

Un in Yisroel un in Amerika un in di gantse velt, me shraybt Idish in
der Ivrit alef-beys mit an Ivrit ader Idish klaviatur, un in der
Latin alfabet, mit a Daytsh QWERTZ ader Inglish QWERTY klaviatur.

Except me, I'm typing Yiddish on a Dvorak keyboard.

Nor ikh shrayb Idish mit a Dvorak klaviatur.

>In some cases locale would be more precise, for example English,

Nope. Many locales have a choice of keyboards, including QWERTY and
Dvorak for Latin-English-U.S. No doubt we will see
Shavian-English-U.S. and Deseret-English-U.S., as well.

>but most
>languages have a single keyboard for a specific layout.

That doesn't parse. Do you mean "Most languages have a single
keyboard layout?" That is demonstrably false. To start with, most
languages and most possible locales (which I am representing here as
script-language-country combinations) have precisely 0 widely
available keyboards tailored to their requirements, and so make do,
if they are put on computers at all, with a mishmash of keyboard
layouts designed for other locales or misdesigned for their locale,
or with specialized software. More than 2,000 out of the more than
6,000 known languages have been written at least a little, yet only
about 100 have anything like decent support on general-purpose

On the other hand, Windows offers 20 locales for Latin-Spanish-*, 16
for Arabic-Arabic-*, 13 for Latin-English-*, 6 for Latin-German-*,
and so on, and in addition there are many layouts which Windows does
not support. There are at least 4 layouts for
Cyrillic-Russian-Russia, but only one in Windows. Chinese (S and T),
Korean, and Japanese have several layouts each in common IMEs. There
are more than 200 languages formerly written in Cyrillic, many of
which are now being written in other scripts (Latin, Arabic,
Mongolian,...), and a number of languages which switched from Arabic
to Latin alphabet in the previous century.

I'm sure that others on this list can multiply these examples.


Edward Cherlin Generalist "A knot!" exclaimed Alice. "Oh, do let me help to undo it." Alice in Wonderland

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