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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Frank Mittelbach <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 21:47:31 +0100
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (114 lines)
perhaps i expressed myself badly so let me clarify a few things first
before i try to reply to some messages that reached me via this list:

 a) when i asked for possible rules and possible "language dependent"
items i was well aware that there are package around (for example
Babel and also the KOMA-script bundle) that do try to resolve some of
those issues. what i'm interested in is a hopefully large collection
of those issues in an abstract way. so at the moment i'm not looking
at implementations and interfaces (although i'm happy to see
suggestions there as well like those already presented) but first
would like to get an overview of the problem area (especially about
those items that are not handled by, say babel or other package). My
understanding is that we don't understand the multi-lingual issues yet
(at least not very well) and that most solutions we have are the
result of several software layers that have been developed over the
years fixing problems when they appeared while trying to support older
code as well. therefore i do want to look at the area once more
without looking at interfaces at least not before the picture is a
little bit more complete.

 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. I think that the
traditional language style/package are probably giving the wrong
message as they focus on "i'm the code to use for language foo" while
in reality they might not be much more than providing a suitable
starting environment that needs to be tailored.  There is something
need to provide defaults (i guess nobody will question this) and this
something has to do with "language" --- somehow --- after all if i
typeset in Australia then certainly getting a date with German names
in it would seldom be right, so even if there might be many different
formats there still is something that might warant a default. what
that is remains to be seen that's why i said i would like to first
assemble the items then look at the current solutions for them if any
and then think about how appropriate they are and how others could
look like.

 c) there are probably things that TeX can't do (or at least not in a
general way without invoking the Turing machine theorem (that
everything is possible in TeX since one can implement a Turing machine
with it)) but even so such items (if any) could/should be mentioned.

from Soren's and Richard's mails i do extract the following items (in
a little more abstract representation)

 * for headings there exists certain traditions that require
   additional flexibility when specifying headings such as
   representation of numbers, certain text strings, positioning and
   spacing or even fonts

 * the typeset area and it positioning might depend on regional
   traditions (but even if not one might want easy ways to modify

 * commands that produce textual strings in some form depend on the
   "language" used in the document even if their replacement text is
   not unique, eg even if there is more than one possible resolution
   eg the \today example

how much the above can have "suitable" default or only "reasonable"
defaults or only "some" defaults for a given language is open to
question but certainly the first and the last one are "language
dependent" to some extend. The second is questionable (which does not
mean that i'm not happy to have it listed, on the contrary) but the
fact that Jan Tschichold influence German typeography a lot doesn't
mean that his work could be only used as one(!) possible default for
German documents --- after all he was responsible for redesigning the
Peguin books

let me add a few other items of my own (this straight off my head into
the computer so this is neither sorted nor complete --- after all i'm
asking you for additional items :-)

 * 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

 * the use of fonts might depend on the language at least for
   high-quality typesetting. why? because different languages have
   different distributions of letters and so the gray value can change
   drastically if you use fonts from language to language using the
   same font (something that might suggest using fonts with large or
   small x-heights for certain tasks, etc). Or take the question of
   positioning the diacriticals. german.sty goes a long way to move
   the umlaut (of the cm fonts) into a special position "suitable" for
   German language

 * another thing where TeX is very bad at: the non-use of ligatures.
   this is culture/language dependent even if with MS-word and friends
   we might soon only have documents always without them

 * the position and use of punctuation marks, eg what quotes do we use
   do we put the comma inside or outside the quote

 * ...

what else? i really would like to hear some comments and, if you have
any, additional items that would make the above list longer and more

I think that email got long enough by now (you might think too long if
you read up to this point) so i will reply to Hans Aberg's ideas in a
separate message