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

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  • R A Brown
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 9 , 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.

      --
      Ray
      ==================================
      http://www.carolandray.plus.com
      ==================================
      "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".
    • Eugene Oh
      2009/3/1 Philip Newton ... (Latin Letter Small Capital R)! It d be tough trying to think up a distinctive upper-case for that.
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 1, 2009
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        2009/3/1 Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>

        >
        > 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!
        >
        > That is rather ingenious. I hope they didn't need to use letters like ʀ
        (Latin Letter Small Capital R)! It'd be tough trying to think up a
        distinctive upper-case for that.


        2009/3/1 R A Brown <ray@...>

        > 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.
        >

        It seems as though colonial history plays a large part in terms of who gets
        to devise a Roman orthography for the local tongue!


        >
        > 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_).


        I am certainly learning a lot about the origins of typographic conventions
        today. But what are the "Greek system" and the "vocalic system"? I thought
        Greek was the first alphabet to use vowel letters...?


        > 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

        Eugene
      • Mark J. Reed
        ... Also, the tilde started out as a small superscript N since Spanish grew out (as [J] grew out of [n:]). ... Yes, it was. But I think Ray is
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 1, 2009
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          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; the French system applied the tone marks to
          non-tonal differences between vowels.


          --
          Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
        • R A Brown
          ... Yep. ... Yes indeed. ... When the French printers started using the Greek accents in the 16th century, they were aware only of the Byzantine (and modern
          Message 4 of 9 , 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:]).

            Yep.

            >> 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
            began.
            -----------------------------------------

            Eugene Oh wrote:
            [snip]
            > 2009/3/1 R A Brown <ray@...>
            [snip]
            >> 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 ;)

            --
            Ray
            ==================================
            http://www.carolandray.plus.com
            ==================================
            "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".
          • Benct Philip Jonsson
            ... Incidentally it does exist since small capital R is used as a distinct letter, although Unicode calls the capital U+01A6 LATIN LETTER YR Ʀ.
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 1, 2009
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              On 2009-03-01 Eugene Oh wrote:
              > (Latin Letter Small Capital R)! It'd be tough trying to
              > think up a distinctive upper-case for that.
              >

              Incidentally it does exist since small capital R
              is used as a distinct letter, although Unicode calls
              the capital U+01A6 LATIN LETTER YR Ʀ.

              <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yr_rune>

              The other smallcaps in IPA would be a lot harder
              when it comes to concoct distinct upper case forms!

              I actually prefer diacritics to deformed letters
              and small-caps à la IPA and Soviet Cyrillic orthographies.
              They are easier to read and easier to write by hand,
              especially in cursive handwriting (where you simply
              add the diacritics after writing each word.
              Diacritics can also be used in an uniform way to
              create many new graphemes in a uniform way in
              a way which IPA deformations can't.

              I can even use the same diacritics with shorthand
              with sowe success, unless more than one consonant in
              a cluster written with a single sign needs a
              diacritic; it is possible to stack them, but which
              diacritic(s) go with which consonant(s) becomes
              kind of ambiguous.

              I'm sorry for perpetuating a statement I read in some
              old book! The author of that apparently considered
              only European languages, and made too much of the
              Dutch ë and too little of French loanword's in
              English. It's hardly erroneuos to say that the
              Anglophone peoples have a record of _terror diacriticorum_!

              /BP 8^)>
              --
              Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
              à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
              ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
              c'est qu'elles meurent." (Victor Hugo)
            • Benct Philip Jonsson
              ... No it originated in the Visigothic z. The
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 1, 2009
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                On 2009-03-01 R A Brown wrote:
                > the cedilla, originated from the habit of writing a small
                > _z_ under the letter _c_

                No it originated in the Visigothic z.

                <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedilla#Use_of_the_cedilla_with_the_letter_C>
                <http://wiki.frath.net/Cedilla>

                The FrathWiki page was written by me. NB the manuscript
                reproduction of an actual Visigothic z!

                /BP 8^)>
                --
                Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
                à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
                ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
                c'est qu'elles meurent." (Victor Hugo)
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