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TEI-L  October 2004

TEI-L October 2004

Subject:

Re: MS Word and XML (eventually...)

From:

Michael Beddow <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Michael Beddow <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 9 Oct 2004 19:16:51 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (73 lines)

Sebastian Rahtz wrote

> Strangely, I am with Michael on this.

That reminds me of the school story in which a boy begins a biographical
note about a notoriously irascible teacher with the sentence:

"When he was at Oxford, Mr Wilkins always had a row before breakfast".

I won't attempt to get IPA symbols past the Brown listserver, so I can't
fully elucidate for readers not imbued with the culture of academic
oarsmanship this unfortunate graphemic (but not phonemic) ambiguity. I
suppose I could (should?) try it by markup, but it is after all the weekend.

But for the eventual historians of this archive (Hi folks, how do you like
P94?) in an age when nuances of English may well have changed, I think I'd
better explain that by "Strangely..."  Sebastian doesn't mean "It's strange
that Michael should say something I can agree with for once, he must be
really off-form" but rather "It's strange to find me agreeing with any
half-way positive statement about Microsoft".

Or at least that's my <interp>.

> Why didn't they give us the great Berthold Brecht as well?

They were scared of the London University Board of Germanic Studies Hit
Squad.  In those days I believe they were a band of tweed-suited ladies from
Royal Holloway College with very heavy German-made shoes and umbrellas and
fearsome hatpins. They were also rumoured  to have moonlighted as extras in
London productions of An Enemy of the People.

>  The parallel now is the
> movement in schools in England now to phase out the zero, as being an
> evil Arab invention.

Yes, and those who extraordinarily contemplate that move are even more
ignorant than they are obviously trying hard to be. This is actually vaguely
TEI-L related in a loose and weekend-baggy sort of way, because I am
currently supervising the encoding of a number of Anglo-Norman texts,
translated from the Arabic, on what was, in at least one variant, called
"Algorism" (subsequently given a deceptive Greek guise via false etymology
as "algorithm") -- broadly the art of computation by what we call Arabic
numerals. The distinctively Islamic-originated contribution, however, is the
place system. The additional invention (metaphysically problematical and
therefore also pretty dangerous to its importers) of the zero was to all
appearances brought into Arabic mathematics (and thence later along with the
place system into the arithmetic of Christendom) from India.

Despite the possibility of linking to the Charsets WG I will spare the list
my speculations on the functional./cultural affinity between resistance to
the Indian zero and to the "virama" symbol, exported likewise from India to
"kill" the vowel into a number of Asian syllabaries (though some explain the
term by saying that it's the residual vowel-deprived consonant that ends up
"dead"). The scribes of the Tagalog people resisted the importation of such
a menacingly-named "killer" into their script, with the result that it
remained incapable of  unambiguously representing many common words in their
language (even before the massive importation of Hispanic lexis), which in
turn may be why the native Tagalog script swiftly passed out of common use
after colonisation, whereas the scripts associated with the languages of
other Philippine language groups who accepted this "killer" (baptised in
adulthood by clever Jesuit scholars who interpreted is as a cross) have
survived to this day, and remain capable of unambiguous notation of all
necessary forms. You will find a "cross bakulit" diacritic used as a virama
on the CD covers of self-consciously "ethnic" Tagalog folk-pop groups, but
when used to notate their language it is anything but authentic, being the
Philippine homologue of the Ye Olde Worlde Tea Shoppe orthography. Which
takes us back to Oxford, or the more touristy portions thereof...

Right:  sorry, I realise other folk have more interesting ways of spending
their weekends. I seem to remember I did too, once upon a time.

Michael Beddow

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