[Suppress-Script] Initial list of 300 languages

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Mon Mar 13 14:19:12 CET 2006

Caoimhin O Donnaile scripsit:

> I get the impression, though, that both Latg and Latf were inherited
> by iso15924, without further definition or clarification, from
> categories used by librarians to categorise printed books based on
> purely superficial differences aparent to the untrained eye;

AFAIK that is not the case.

> and that the chances are that this categorisation was based on font

As Michael points out, the differences are rather greater than font
distinctions, and should more properly be called "writing tradition"
distinctions: Latn (stricto sensu) refers to the writing styles that
descend from Carolingian minuscules; Latg to the insular writing styles
used for Irish (until modern times) and English (until the fall of
Old English).  Of course one can see plenty of hybrids nowadays:  I
saw a poster in English the other day that was basically uncial, but with
a Carolingian "t".

> If this is the case, and Latg and Latf are defined purely in terms
> of font rather than characters, then they are irrelevant to modern
> electronic text processing where font can be changed on the fly,
> and they should either be given a health warning, "to be used only by
> librarians categorising printed materials", or deprecated altogother.

Fair enough, though librarians are not the only people who deal
with hard copy.

>  - I have the feeling that the 'e' was used a lot less historically in 
>     German than the 'h' was in Irish, but I may be wrong about this.

Historically, the umlaut mark *is* an "e" above the letter (this is more
apparent in Latf-style handwriting, where it is a couple of connected
minims rather than two dots).

>   - [I]f Latf were used to represent character differences, it would denote 
>     the absence of diacritics (since modern German with umlaut represented by
>     dieresis is considered to be Latn, and the 'e' is considered to be more
>      old-fashioned.

No one would think of connecting the use of the umlaut diacritic with
the Fraktur/Antiqua distinction.  The spelled-out forms ae, oe, ue are
used only (1) in certain surnames as a matter of tradition, and (2) as a
font hack where proper letters are not available.  Neither Fraktur fonts
nor Antiqua fonts used in Germany would lack diacritic forms.  Antiqua
fonts have been used in Germany on and off almost since the invention of
printing; indeed, I have seen prewar Antiqua display fonts with separate
forms for the German umlaut letters and for vowels with diaeresis.

> This looks like it is saying that the definition of Latg (and Latf)
> is based on fonts rather than character representations, 

Indeed it is saying that.

>   Kroatisch-Deutsch und Deutsch-Kroatisch: mit einem Anhang der 
>   wichtigeren Neubildungen des Kroatischen und Deutschen. - Berlin: Axel 
>   Juncker, 1941. vi, 302, 314, 32 p.; 15 cm. In Croatian (Latn) and 
>   German (Latf).
> I expect that a book written in German at that time would have umlaut
> represented by diacritics rather than by 'e', which would mean that
> Latf must refer purely to the font and not to characters.

Just so.

> This seems to me to indicate that Latg is intended to convey something
> more about the content than purely font information.  Since the font
> for any piece of Irish, old or new, can be changed at will these days
> by the browser or by stylesheets, specifying the font would be saying
> nothing at all about the content.

"Saying nothing at all" is going rather too far: it is saying that when
the page is rendered in the ordinary fashion (rather than by a pure-text
browser or such) the Irish bits will appear in insular style.

A few times, I did some exuberant stomping about,       John Cowan
like a hippo auditioning for Riverdance, though         cowan at ccil.org
I stopped when I thought I heard something at           www.ccil.org/~cowan
the far side of the room falling over in rhythm         www.ap.org
with my feet.  -- Joseph Zitt

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