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158153Re: Languages written in the Roman alphabet (Was: Re: Chinese whispers game)

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  • R A Brown
    Mar 1, 2009
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      Philip Newton wrote:
      > 2009/3/1 Eugene Oh <un.doing@...>:
      >> Does Swahili not have its own script? I honestly did not know it used the
      >> Roman alphabet.

      No, it doesn't - but then neither does English! Most languages, I think,
      share scripts.

      Swahili used to be written in a variety of the Arabic alphabet, but has
      used the Roman alphabet for a long time now. As an official language of
      Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the African Union, it is written in the
      Roman alphabet - without diacritics.

      >> Is is the same case with the other languages of the region (besides Ge'ez,
      >> Amharic, etc.)? Are languages like Ewe also written in the Roman script?
      > I think that of languages in Africa, only Berber, Arabic, Hausa, and
      > Ge'ez+friends do not use the Latin alphabet.
      > In fact, some of them use something I've always found interesting: IPA
      > letters which they thought up upper-case variants for!

      Yep - some do use diacritics and/or extra letters. But some African
      languages, e.g. Zulu & Xhosa, happily (but, arguably, not optimally) use
      the Roman script without diacritics.

      At one time, of course, the languages of Europe got along without
      diacritics. It was essentially the rise of printing that led their
      consistent use; at first, as we see in French, it was an attempt to
      adopt the Greek system to the vocalic system. Some, like the cedilla,
      originated from the habit of writing a small _z_ under the letter _c_ if
      it was to retain the "soft" sound before a back vowel (i.e. writing a
      small superscript _z_ was considered more elegant than _cz_).

      Diacritics are occasionally found in English. Some one has mentioned
      foreign (mainly modern French) borrowing; the spellings _coöperation_ or
      _co-operation_ were both fairly common when I was young. In verse where
      the _e_ in the preterite/past participle ending is to be pronounced
      still usually IME has the _e_ marked with a grave accent.

      Personally, I'm not phased one way or the other by diacritics (tho, I do
      think Vietnamese has somewhat overdone their use :)

      It seems to me that those who object to the use of _any_ diacritics and
      those who rail about English not (usually) using them are both taking
      extreme positions.

      But, it is, of course, quite untrue that only English & Latin are
      properly written without them.

      "Ein Kopf, der auf seine eigene Kosten denkt,
      wird immer Eingriffe in die Sprache thun."
      [J.G. Hamann, 1760]
      "A mind that thinks at its own expense
      will always interfere with language".
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