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Re: Expected behaviour of quotation marks

From: Florian Rivoal <florian@rivoal.net>
Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2016 13:20:12 +0900
Cc: W3C Digital Publishing IG <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>, www International <www-international@w3.org>
Message-Id: <695A16BF-1319-4B53-988A-C74059B8421B@rivoal.net>
To: ishida@w3.org

> On Apr 7, 2016, at 03:48, ishida@w3.org wrote:
> 
> This is a question about how quotation marks should behave in multilingual text.
> 
> [...]
> 
> In other words, i'm suggesting that the outermost quotation marks belong to the language of the paragraph, rather than the quotation, and that the innermost quotes would be those of the language of the quotation. But i'm also wondering whether the innermost quotes should use the primary or secondary quotation marks.

This is tricky indeed, and I am not sure your suggestion that the innermost quots should be of the language of the quotation. The reason that languages have conventions to used different characters for different levels of nesting is so that two levels don't end up with the same characters. If we mix and match language rules as we go down, this is no longer going to be true in the general case. How bad that is varies.

With very directional characters such as «», if you end up nesting them repeatedly it might not be pretty, but it's still clear. «foo said: «bar wrote: «baz»»». But if you're nesting "" or '' (or “” or ‘’ in fonts where they look the same), this becomes ambiguous, and it looks arguably worse with the example John gave where you nest „“ in “” and get “„“”, which is likely to confuse readers.

I think that for the general case, we have to stick to a single set of rules for nesting the quotes, and using the ruleset of the outermost language is what makes most sense.

With that said, for specific situations, having looked at the context, the desired stylistic effect, the actual languages used, and so on, authors would definitely be justified in picking a different combination (and the relevant specs should give examples on how to do that so that it is clear).

But for the general case we need something that always works.

 - Florian
Received on Thursday, 7 April 2016 04:20:37 UTC

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