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Re: Digression: little/big endian numbers LTR/RTL

From: John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>
Date: Thu, 1 May 2008 16:00:10 -0400
To: Jeremy Carroll <jjc@hpl.hp.com>
Cc: Simon Montagu <smontagu@smontagu.org>, Frank Ellermann <hmdmhdfmhdjmzdtjmzdtzktdkztdjz@gmail.com>, www-international@w3.org
Message-ID: <20080501200010.GF29430@mercury.ccil.org>

Jeremy Carroll scripsit:

> He tells me:
> - classical arabic numbers are RTL
>   (compare Olde English "four and twenty blackbirds"
> - when writing in classical arabic mode numbers are written RTL (i.e. 
> the hand moves from right to left)
> - dialects are polluted by the colonial languages (e.g. north african 
> arabic by french).
> - this pollution results in numbers being said and/or written LTR (i.e. 
> the hand jumps leftwards, moves back to the right when writing the 
> number, and then jumps leftward again).

I believe that's right.  In addition, the skipping method is used
when writing Persian and (with European digits) when writing Hebrew.
I don't know about other RTL languages.

I think your historical explanation is correct except for:

> This resulted in changes such that the phrase "four and twenty" is
> now archaic, because of the least significant digit first construction.

Doubtful, because only the last two digits were ever reversed
("one hundred and four-and-twenty" for 124) and because not all
European languages were affected ("ein hundert fier-und-zwanzig").

My confusion is rapidly waxing          John Cowan
For XML Schema's too taxing:            cowan@ccil.org
    I'd use DTDs                        http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
    If they had local trees --
I think I best switch to RELAX NG.
Received on Thursday, 1 May 2008 20:00:47 UTC

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