11.380 Characters

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 15:25:59 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 380.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sat, 1 Nov 97 13:15:13 CST
From: Jim Marchand <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: characters

From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>

It seems to me that the question is communication. If one uses IBM Codepage
350 or ISO 8859-1 or whatever, one is putting the burden on the receiver,
whose machine may not be compliant with them. If you don't care whether you
communicate or not, or if you feel so offended at having to give up
dicritics that you cannot give them up or encode them, so be it. We who
deal with Middle English feel lost without our yogh, Old Icelandic
specialists must eschew the o hook, even if we use the above. When I write
Yiddish, it takes me five letters to write JW.

As far as communication is concerned, I have no trouble reading French
without diacritics, though I am sure that there are minimal pairs one could
cite. We have some in English, in fact, and there was a movement at one
time to add more, so that clods like me would not say mizeled for misled or
now + here for nowhere. Germans have more reason to complain -- my library,
for instance, makes no distinction between a and a-umlaut. If you imagine
that you are writing in caps on an old Remington, it is all easy. Telegrams
are sent every day in France without the hint of a diacritic.

Having said this, and being a polyglop, I resent also having to write my
languages without diacritics. I do not see ISO 8859-1 as an answer; your
systems administrator and Bill Gates could install Unicode compatibility
just as easily. Then we could write in the writing system of our choice.
Jim Marchand.

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