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158165Re: 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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      Mark J. Reed wrote:
      > On Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 9:11 AM, Eugene Oh <un.doing@...> wrote:
      >> I am certainly learning a lot about the origins of typographic conventions
      >> today.
      > Also, the tilde started out as a small superscript N since Spanish <ñ>
      > grew out <nn> (as [J] grew out of [n:]).


      >> But what are the "Greek system" and the "vocalic system"? I thought
      >> Greek was the first alphabet to use vowel letters...?
      > Yes, it was. But I think Ray is referring to the Greek tone marks.
      > Ancient Greek was tonal;

      Yes indeed.

      > the French system applied the tone marks to
      > non-tonal differences between vowels.

      When the French printers started using the Greek accents in the 16th
      century, they were aware only of the Byzantine (and modern Katharevousa)
      use where all three accents just show stress. But they did notice that:
      the acute was the most common; the circumflex very often appeared over a
      vowel resulting from an earlier contraction of sounds; the grave
      appeared only on vowels in the final syllable. Now consider how the same
      three diacritics are used in modern French :)

      In medieval French, the cedilla, diaeresis (trema), the circumflex and
      grave accents were unknown. A mark like the modern acute (probably the
      old Latin 'apex') was _occasionally_ used to show (irregular) stress, to
      mark diaeresis or to distinguish _i_ from contiguous _m, n, u, v_. It's
      only from the 16th century that the French love affair with diacritics

      Eugene Oh wrote:
      > 2009/3/1 R A Brown <ray@...>
      >> Personally, I'm not phased one way or the other by diacritics (tho, I do
      >> think Vietnamese has somewhat overdone their use :)
      > Blame the French. :-P

      A little unfair - the Portuguese also had a hand in it ;)

      "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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