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Hans Aberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 17 Feb 1997 14:34:48 +0100
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To: Robin Fairbairns

>>   The question of what to use as first and second order quotation marks
>> seems to be language related:
>>   In US English (and Swedish), quotes are nested as
>>     ``And then he said `foo bar', ... ''
>> whereas in UK English, it is
>>     `And then he said ``how bad'', ... '
>> I think.
>I'm not aware of any fixed rule about this: if there is one, it's
>certainly not enforced.

  I think we are ending up with discussons like "concerning feature 'foo',
I do not use 'bar', and I do not know anybody who does, while concering
feature 'bla', I use 'blaha', and everybody I know do'. This is just the
typical general behaviour, when you do not move much around between
cultural boundaries. If you move to another (sub-)culture, you will find
perhaps the situation reversed, that "bla" is not important, whereas "foo"
is very important.

  For example, concerning the dates, the Swedes have their own domestic
format that everybody expects to follow, and they are generally not even
_aware_ of that there might be a different format, so they regard a person
that use a different format as unknowing about what the correct format
really is. In Australia, it strikes me, that people might used to use a
date format that somehow profiled their heritage, whereas that aspect might
break down today -- so people are not really using any date format they
chooses, but it is entangled in complicated heritage questions.

  Concerning any feature, it is a fact that those particular variations do
occur. My guess is that, as this info collecting continues, one will
discover that naming such "German", "UK English", "US English", etc, are no
more than arbitrary labels, used to help systemizing the various features.

>> * In US English, the number 1e9 is typeset as "one billion", whereas in UK
>> English, it is typeset as "one milliard". (After the French revolution, the
>> metric system, and the system with "milliard" was invented, and the
>> British, as the Swedes, started using that; later the French switched back
>> to the original system, the used in the US.)
>I boggle.  I've never heard *anyone* use milliard in 50 years of
>listening to spoken English (as opposed to USAn, that is ;-).  I've
>seldom heard it in spoken French, for that matter, but I did at least
>know of its existence as a French word...
>>   In principle, one could think of special commands for cardinal numbers;
>> one might the use the source code, to see which number was intended. :-)

  This is not a fully serious suggestion, but the thing is that concerning
any semantic feature, should it be entered as a semantic concept (like \em
for emphasize), or as a notation (like \it for italics)? The general idea
with LaTeX is that some of it should be entered semantically, in order to
aid the typing process. Another reason is that one might later use the
sourcecode, to figure out the authors intentions, which do not show up in
the typography. The choice of where the divide should be (between notation
and notions) is really only pragmatics.

  By the way, I think BBC World always uses the terminology "thousand
millions", for some reason... :-)

  Hans Aberg