Re: Medievalist ligature character in the PUA

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Wed Jan 27 2010 - 08:04:51 CST

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    On 1/27/2010 12:34 AM, Gerrit wrote:
    > Am 27.01.2010 15:49, schrieb Werner LEMBERG:
    >> . The difference between `s' and `ſ' helps much in the comprehension
    >> German, especially in identifying the boarders of components in
    >> compound words. For example, the famous `Wachstube' problem
    >> (either Wachs-tube or Wach-stube) doesn't exist if you use `ſ':
    >> Wachſtube -> Wach-Stube
    >> Wachstube -> Wachs-Tube
    >> Of course, this only works with Fraktur since there the use of `ſ'
    >> is mandatory.
    > Well, but why always this example? I didn’t come across any other
    > example. And usually the context helps, so it is no problem if
    > Wachsstube is written the same.
    Well, there's a whole dictionary of them:

    Homographen-Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (Heinz Josef Weber)

    actually, it contains lots of examples of words where the word division
    is ambiguous - not all of them involve a word division at a ligature.
    Here's an example of one that doesn't involve ligatures:

    Lebensmittel is German for foodstuffs in the sense of what you buy in a
    grocery store (literally: means for living)
    Mittelpunkt is center (literally: middle point).

    You can have a center to your life:


    but are you sure it's not a dot (Punkt) on your foodstuffs? Or a point
    in a point system, perhaps, giving you credit for some food purchase? I
    doubt that the alternate way to compound this noun has ever seen much
    currency, and I certainly don't recall an example, so I can't give a
    customary meaning. (The standard reading is a term that has legal
    significance, so it's not at this point an ad-hoc compound).

    In many cases, such as the above, only one of the possible
    interpretations has any currency, but if you come across an unfamiliar
    word, it's possible that you could parse it incorrectly before context
    will set you straight.

    > Apart from that, I think Wachſtube is not really a contemporary word
    > anymore (or only in certain contexts... I can’t remember when I saw
    > this word in an ordinary text).
    In the meaning of guard-room it's still current and has given rise to
    place names as well. The alternate word division is one of those
    compounds that makes sense, and if you ever needed to write about a tube
    of wax, that's the word you'd use, but there may not be a lot of need
    out there. :)

    There are other examples that are not minimal pairs
    Wachs-tafel (wax tablet)
    where both words are of demonstrated use (wax tablets were used
    historically and descriptions of them would of course use the word).

    These show the same interaction of ligature with word-division, but
    don't rule out the use of dictionary-based algorithms. The latter of
    course fail utterly in case of homographs. Because compound formation in
    German is open ended, there are many not-yet-attempted compounds out
    there, that would be affected - hence Unicode's recommendation to use
    ZWNJ to mark up word divisions that need to divide a ligature.

    A good editing tool could make that task simple by providing candidates
    based on dictionaries for cases where there's no ambiguity, as in
    Karl's "Brot-zeit" example.
    > But I think Fraktur has a much higher disadvantage: I and J look the
    > same. This may not pose a problem for German, but what if you have
    > foreign loan words (ok, they are not written in Fraktur, but foreign
    > names are written in Fraktur)? There can be some problem, especially
    > if their usage of J is like in English and is not close to the I, as
    > in German.
    Most of the capitals in Fraktur are pure disasters, from my point of
    view. Long after I could read everything else about as fluently as
    Antiqua, I had to stop and contrast a given capital with others on the
    same page to be really sure I got it right.
    > As to the Nazi argument:
    > Well, it doesn’t change public opinion, even if it is not a “Nazi
    > font”. If the media promotes it like that, most people will think of
    > it like that.
    It's easy to see why this association can arise. Just look at the design
    of their own publication:
    But look no farther then Wikipedia
    to find a quote that extols the virtues of an international script in
    the "age of steel".

    Just because the media promotes a distorted image isn't reason enough to
    subscribe to it yourself.


    PS: this has now gone off-topic enough... so send me further replies

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