Re: in the NEW YORK TIMES today, report of a USA patent for a met hod to make the Arabic language easier to read/write/typeset

From: Edward H. Trager (
Date: Mon Mar 15 2004 - 21:13:40 EST

  • Next message: Chris Jacobs: "Re: in the NEW YORK TIMES today, report of a USA patent for a met hod to make the Arabic language easier to read/write/typeset"

    On Monday 2004.03.15 11:50:05 -0800, Mike Ayers wrote:
    > > From: []On
    > > Behalf Of Frank Yung-Fong Tang
    > > Sent: Monday, March 15, 2004 11:16 AM
    > > It seems not a very new idea. Similar idea have been used in
    > > Chinese 40
    > > years ago and create the differences between Simplifed Chinese And
    > > Traditional Chinese.
    > Really? That conflicts with my understanding, which is:
    > When writing Chinese, there are certain stroke elements which, when
    > written in the more flowing script of everyday usage (grass script et al.),
    > closely resemble other stroke elements which use less strokes to write.
    > These stroke reduced elements are substituted for the original elements.
    > Also, there are certain "paired" character elements, such that one may be
    > substituted for the other, and the quicker-to-write stroke reduced element
    > gets substituted. I do not really understand these substitutions, but it is
    > my understanding that they are intuitive to literate Chinese. These two
    > "simplification" methods were formalized and standardized to become
    > Simplified Chinese.
    > Am I getting this wrong? I don't see the connection between organic
    > change in a script and singular revolutionary change.

    No, you are basically correct. I think it would be correct to say that people who
    learned the traditional characters first in school have little problem with the
    simplified characters, most of which are indeed based on conventional handwritten
    forms which simplify a number of strokes. But for the younger generation who learned only the
    simplified forms used in the Mainland, the traditional forms are more of a headache to
    get comfortable with. Given all of the trade with Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and all the
    other overseas Chinese communities where traditional characters are used, not to mention
    the proliferation of information in both sets of characters on the web, I'm not quite
    sure how young native speakers really deal with it except that eventually, one way or
    the other, one *has* to learn both the simplified and traditional forms. Of course,
    it is only a set of a few thousand characters that might change between simplified and
    traditional, so for a native educated speaker who already has the other ten thousand
    memorized, maybe it's not overwhelming ...
    For non-native students of Chinese, like myself, I can tell you it is most certainly
    in one's best interest to learn *both* the simplified and traditional forms. It's kind
    of a headache ...

    As for that patent on non-cursive Arabic letters that can be written either left-to-right
    or right-to-left, I doubt it will ever come to much practical use, really. Having taught
    myself the Arabic alphabet more-or-less (I say "more or less" because I'm never going to
    really have a good feel for it until I decide to study one of the *languages* written in
    the script (i.e., Arabic), after which it will all become second-nature...), I really didn't
    find the right-to-left aspect nor the cursive aspect difficult at all! That cursive
    calligraphic character of Arabic script is what is so appealing about it!

    Now, what I *did* find difficult was the way Arabic glyph types and joining behaviour is
    described in the Unicode Standard, because everything is presented from the left-to-right
    perspective. It is really much easier to just suspend one's cultural notion that scripts "normally"
    run left-to-right, pick up a good book like Awde and Samano's "The Arabic Alphabet"
    (Kensington Publ.), learn the alphabet from right-to-left the way it is meant to be learned,
    ... and finally after that, one can come back and easily see what's required for arabic
    shaping in left-to-right-dominated software systems ...

    > /|/|ike

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