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

From: Najib Tounsi <ntounsi@emi.ac.ma>
Date: Fri, 02 May 2008 11:21:40 +0000
Message-ID: <481AF944.7010303@emi.ac.ma>
To: Jeremy Carroll <jjc@hpl.hp.com>
CC: Simon Montagu <smontagu@smontagu.org>, Frank Ellermann <hmdmhdfmhdjmzdtjmzdtzktdkztdjz@gmail.com>, www-international@w3.org

Jeremy Carroll wrote:
>
>  OLD SUBJECT: Re: BiDi IRI deployment?
>
>  Simon Montagu wrote:
> >
> > Frank Ellermann wrote:
> >> [Digression... I'm not completely convinced that numbers are
> >> really written LTR in RTL languages, or if they just have a
> >> "little endian" concept where RTL languages use "big endian"]
> >
> > This question comes up every so often. I can assure you that native
> > speakers of RTL languages write numbers LTR, whether by pen or by
> > keyboard.
> >
>
>  This is not what my (north african arabic) native speaker informant
>  tells me.
>
>  He tells me: - classical arabic numbers are RTL

Yes, classical spoken arabic is RTL. 1234 is "four and thirty and two 
hundred and
one thousand".

>  (compare Olde English "four and twenty blackbirds"

But 123 is read "one hundred and three and twenty", in native language 
speaking (mine is Moroccan).

>  - when writing in classical arabic mode numbers are written RTL (i.e.
>  the hand moves from right to left)

Yes, for classical ََArabic hand writers.

Though some people might write/read numbers from left to right. It is a 
question of habit. It also depends on the writing tool. Using a 
bidi-enabled tool, if you type "ABC 123", you get "123 CBA".
Otherwise, you should type "ABC 321" to get the same thing.

>  - dialects are polluted by the colonial languages (e.g. north african
>  arabic by french).

I suspect that's why we write 1234 in LTR, and read it "one thousand two 
hundreds four and thirty". The two last digits, units and tens, are read 
in RTL.

Regards,

Najib

>  - 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).
>
>  PO:
>
>  It seems to me that arabic numbers were always RTL with least
>  significant digit first; when imported into western Europe these
>  gradually became LTR with most significant digit first (because of
>  the LTR writing system). This resulted in changes such that the
>  phrase "four and twenty" is now archaic, because of the least
>  significant digit first construction. With European colonialism the
>  most significant digit first meme was re-exported from western Europe
>  back into arabic speaking communities, resulting in the apparent LTR
>  numbers within a RTL writing system.
>
>  Jeremy
>
>
>
>
>
Received on Friday, 2 May 2008 11:37:29 GMT

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