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Re: New FAQ: Script direction and languages

From: Jungshik Shin <jshin@i18nl10n.com>
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 02:32:55 -0400 (EDT)
Cc: www-international@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.BSO.4.56.0309121635330.26314@callisto.jtan.com>

On Fri, 12 Sep 2003, Richard Ishida wrote:

> The latest FAQ published by the GEO task force is:
> 	What directions are commonly localized languages written in?
> Find it at: http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-scripts.html

  Thank you for the nice work, Tex.  Here's a little glitch I've
just spotted.

FAQ> Ideographic languages (e.g. Japanese, Korean, Chinese) are more
FAQ> flexible in their writing direction. They are generally written

  This is my pet peeve. You're one of the last people I expected to
use the term, but I might have been wrong.  ;-).

  Just like languages don't have a 'direction' (script(s) or writing
system does(do)  as you wrote in your FAQ), a language is not ideographic
but a script can be.  As you know well, linguistically Japanese
(agglutinating) and Korean (agglutinating) [1] on the one hand and
Chinese(isolating) on the other hand are a lot farther from each
other than most other pairs are.  Therefore, ideographic or
otherwise, it's all but impossible to come up with a single adjective
to describe three of them together.

  Of course,  their writting systems share a script (Hanzi, Kanji,
Hanja) that is often characterized as 'ideographic'.  Even this
characterization is not strictly correct because 'ideographic' is
only one of six ways (not so productive) by which Hanzi/Kanji/Hanja
were/have been made up/created/used. More importantly, as is well known,
Japanese writing system uses two more scripts (both syllabic) while
Korean writing system uses Korean script (featural/alphabetic/syllabic [2])
so that their writing systems are not ideographic, either.

  Given all these, I suggest that the above sentence be revised
to read :

    Writing systems for Chinese, Japanese and Korean  are more
    flexible in their writing direction. They are generally written

 BTW, RTL (horizontal) is sometimes used for Chinese and Korean
(and perhaps Japanese as well) for a short run of text such as
several-character-long maxims (usually taken from classical


[1] The relation between Korean and Japanese is rather murky. Both
languages are kinda 'orphan languages' although some linguists
in the early 20th century thought that Korean belongs to Altaic
language family.

[2] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unicode/message/9183
Received on Saturday, 13 September 2003 02:33:01 UTC

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