Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Jun 2014 15:37 UTC
Features, Office

Way back in 2009, I wrote about a few specific cases in which computers led to (subtle) changes in the Dutch language. While the changes highlighted in that article were subtle and not particularly substantial, there are cases around the world where computing threatens much more than a few subtle, barely noticeable features of a language.

This article is a bit too politicised for my taste, but if you set that aside and focus on its linguistic and technological aspects, it's quite, quite fascinating.

Urdu is traditionally written in a Perso-Arabic script called nastaliq, a flowy and ornate and hanging script. But when rendered on the web and on smartphones and the entire gamut of digital devices at our disposal, Urdu is getting depicted in naskh, an angular and rather stodgy script that comes from Arabic. And those that don’t like it can go write in Western letters.

It'd be fantastic if Microsoft, Google, and Apple could include proper support for nastaliq into their products. It's one thing to see Dutch embrace a new method of displaying direct quotes under the influences of computers, but to see an entire form of script threatened is another.

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It was happening before computers
by ncafferkey on Wed 25th Jun 2014 17:20 UTC
ncafferkey
Member since:
2006-09-15

Technology was killing scripts even before computers arrived. As far as I know, the Irish Gaelic script was abandoned in the early 20th Century in favour of Roman script due to the difficulty of reproducing it with typesetting and typewriters.

Reply Score: 5

hhas Member since:
2006-11-28

This. Middle- and Far-East scripts are beautiful to look at and a right royal PITA to support due to their much more complex layout rules. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai require special rules to determine where line wraps may or may not occur. Arabic script uses complex ligatures so each characters requires different glyphs when appearing at the start, middle, or end of a word. Thai doesn't even have punctuation. And so on.

All this makes it difficult and time-consuming (i.e. costly) to implement such scripts correctly, so can't entirely blame vendors for being reluctant to undertake such work when it's not going to pay for itself due to piracy, poverty, etc. If the article author wishes to do more than tilt at windmills, he needs to address these economic and technical challenges as well.

Edited 2014-06-25 22:21 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5