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Hans Aberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 16:33:38 +0100
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Frank Mittelbach <[log in to unmask]> writes:

> b) there are at least two positions in the TeX world concerning
>"language". one group thinks that there is something like typography
>for language "foo" and therefore there has to be a set macros that
>support typsetting documents in "foo". the other group takes more the
>approach that there isn't such a thing but and therefore saying "this
>is is the German way to typeset \today is utter nonsense" and
>therefore everybody better defines \today as she damn please. My
>position is somewhat between those groups...

> * the use of hyphenation depends on the language (probably :-) ---
>   just as an aside: in TeX the \patterns to use do not depend on the
>   language but rather on a "language/font-encoding" pair which is an
>   unfortunate fact of life not yet really taken care of

  I will illustrate how complex these issues can be, by taking the example
of Swedish hypenation:
  Twenty years ago, I was taught that the one and only rule in Swedish
hyphenation was that at least one consonant should follow on to the next
line. Now, this rule has been augmented by a rule closer the US practise,
namely, hyphenating words in syllables according to the words (Swedish)
  Sure, there is a body issuing Swedish hyphenation standards, as the
Swedes are even more formal than the Germans, but the problem is that today
the society moves too fast, so, instead of issuing rules that people might
follow, one, in effect, issues rule that describe the general practise, as
one does in the US.
  So here, we have different, conflicting rules, that are resolved by some
kind of pragmatics, which also evolve in time. (Fortunately, I do not write
documents in Swedish, so I do not have to worry about this.)

  This complexity can also be illustrated by the question of date formats:
Suppose I write letters to people in the UK here from Sweden; which date
format should use in that letter? There is clearly no Swedish standard for
English date formats. I would probably stick to the US date format for
occasional correspondence, as I have spent several years in the US, and is
used to that format. But suppose I do not want to confuse the recipient of
that letter; then I should use the UK date format. This also affects the
question of style: I am probably better off profiling me as a European to
the people in the US, without confusing them, and similarly, profiling me
as somebody using the US style, to the people in the UK, without confusing
  So, even if my intent is following some conventions and standards, I end
up with the need of combining style elements from different standards.

  Therefore, I think that a discussion that centers around a few standard
formats only is not very helpful. Several of the standard formats, like the
Duden German grammatical rules I think, were created by collecting some
general practise rules, and simply, rather brutally, make a selection from
that. This way, one can create beautiful standards, but the problem is that
today, our world is too complex for this to work.

  Hans Aberg