Phonetic orthographies

John Cowan cowan at
Sat Nov 25 20:08:56 CET 2006

Gerard Meijssen scripsit:

> Well, this is why this may be an education to me, but to me it 
> would be a change in the script first and in the orthography 
> second. In your Russian example it is clear that these go hand in 
> hand. 

Ah, you are using "script" in a different sense from the BCP 47 sense.
Here it means not the characters in use by one particular language
(the alphabet/abugida/abjad/syllabary/morphosyllabary for that
language) but rather the whole broad tradition, by which Dutch and
English don't (quite) share an alphabet but do share a script.

> When it comes to linguistics, I do not represent a scholarly 
> tradition, I am involved in the creation of an on-line dictionary 
> and I am told that IPA is best as it is the one that can be used 
> best for an international audience. 

In that case IPA is indeed the most relevant.

> When people discuss Hant and Hans, they are NOT talking about an 
> orthography of one language. Chinese is not a language, it is a 
> written system that is shared by people speaking many languages. 

Not really.  The vast bulk of all documents in any Sinitic language
using the Han script are in Mandarin, nothing else.  Exceptions are
things like Cantopop song lyrics.

> Even the name of the script implies as much "Han". 

        A cocky novice once said to Stallman: "I can guess why the
        editor is called Emacs, but why is the justifier called
        Bolio?". Stallman replied forcefully, "Names are but names.
        'Emack & Bolio's' is the name of a popular ice cream shop
        in Boston-town. Neither of these men had anything to do
        with the software."

        His question answered, yet unanswered, the novice turned
        to go, but Stallman called to him, "Neither Emack nor Bolio
        had anything to do with the ice cream shop, either."
                --The "ice cream koan"

> in my understanding relates much more to single languages. The 
> standard Chinese characters that were in UNICODE in the first 
> place, did not even cover all the characters needed to write all 
> the languages that are implied when people talk about Chinese. 
> Extra characters have been added for Cantonese in later versions 

True insofar as Cantonese is written at all (see above).  The great
bulk of Cantonese-speakers who become literate do so in Mandarin,
not in their own language.

Real FORTRAN programmers can program FORTRAN    John Cowan
in any language.  --Allen Brown                 cowan at

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