Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Oct 2009 00:37 UTC
Features, Office In the comments on our editorial about language purism and the Psystar case, it became quite clear that language is a subject almost everyone has an opinion on - not odd if you consider that language is at the very centre of what makes us "human". Since this appears to be a popular subject, let's talk about the influence computing has had on two very minor aspects of the Dutch language.
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If it's not on the keyboard
by TasnuArakun on Tue 27th Oct 2009 11:44 UTC
TasnuArakun
Member since:
2009-05-24

Ah, keyboard layouts and character encodings, one of my favorite topics. ;)

Here in Sweden we have it quite easy since straight quotes are perfectly fine. When we use curved quotes only the right high ones are used (”like this”). Of course, word processors would change straight quotes into curly automatically if you told it to. However in the past they were often hardcoded for english and would change the opening quotes into the left curled ones.

I'm a Mac user and I happen to know that on my Swedish keyboard I can type “, ” or „ by holding shift+alt and then type n, m or comma. But to most people, if it's not (visible) on the keyboard, it doesn't exist. I had a Spanish teacher that would add all the ¡, ¿ and ~ by hand to her printed texts since she didn't know and didn't bother to find out how to type them on her computer. When I studied some Chinese a few years later I remember we were given a special pinyin font that replaced ä, â, ë, ê… with the proper ā, ǎ, ē, ě… . *Brr*, such solutions make me shudder. A hint to those who deals a lot with foreign languages: check out the extended keyboards which contain most of the diacritics you'll ever need plus a ton of other symbols.

Another thing that's been influenced by enlgish and computers is the use of the decimal point versus the decimal comma (and subsequently whether to use commas or spaces as thousands separators). The decimal comma is used in all of Europe (except the UK). However many computer programs expect the input to be using a point. This has led to some younger people (at least that's what I've seen here in Sweden) having started to use the decimal point in other contexts as well and even stating that they prefer it.

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