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capitalization on the net

 
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�I think in the future, capitalization will disappear,� said Professor Sterling, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley. In fact, he said, when his teenage son asked what the presence of the capital letter added to what the period at the end of the sentence signified, he had no answer.


This quote was in a NY Times article (registration required, but the quote stands on its own.)

The quote really grabbed my attention because I appreciate that JavaRanch uses real words/sentences/etc.

I still see a difference between:
i went to the farm and saw a moose. then i saw a goat. then i saw a java class. mr. wheaton showed up as well.

and:
I went to the farm and saw a moose. Then I saw a goat. Then i saw a Java class. Mr. Wheaton showed up as well.

I hope it takes a really long time for written language to degrade completely! While I can read the first one, it takes longer to figure out where the sentences are!

I do think things are drifting though. I do see smilies in some (more casual) work e-mails. One day I'll be the old timer who insists on using actual English
 
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> I hope it takes a really long time for written language to degrade completely!

Objection to the "degrade" epithet. While there are languages (scripts, to be precise) that use capital letters, there are many that do not. They work just fine.

I tried to google out some statistics, but all I found is this:

"Finally, most non�Latin scripts do not even use the concept of lowercase and uppercase, as in the case of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew; as well as Thai. "
http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/getwr/steps/wrg_ulcase.mspx
 
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"Finally, most non�Latin scripts do not even use the concept of lowercase and uppercase, as in the case of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew; as well as Thai."


But in those scripts a reader wouldn't be accustomed to the uppercase/lowercase distinction to begin with (and thus wouldn't miss it). And delineating punctuation might not be used for other purposes (like the dot in "Mr.").

So while everybody might be fine once we're used to the changes Jeanne outlined, until we're there (and that might never happen to anyone who learned languages like we did), it could be rather disconcerting for at least some of us.
 
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:

"Finally, most non�Latin scripts do not even use the concept of lowercase and uppercase ...Arabic"



I'm not close to being an expert in Arabic presentation, but they have four 'forms' of letters, which are different looks when the letter is used in different contexts. So one could argue that they have four cases, where English and many western European languages have only two.

I think Latin itself did not have upper and lower case.

Language and its representation evolves over time. A fair amount of the presentation is driven by technology. The terms "upper case" and "lower case" themselves were driven by conventions of typesetting of movable type. The upper case forms were kept in an upper case...

Typewriters typically didn't have separate forms for the digit one "1" and the lower case letter L ("l") but nearly all computer fonts have separate forms.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
Objection to the "degrade" epithet. While there are languages (scripts, to be precise) that use capital letters, there are many that do not. They work just fine.


And presumably they've always been that way. English hasn't.

Originally posted by Ulf Dittmer :
So while everybody might be fine once we're used to the changes Jeanne outlined, until we're there (and that might never happen to anyone who learned languages like we did), it could be rather disconcerting for at least some of us.


That's a good point.

Originally posted by Pat Farrell :
The upper case forms were kept in an upper case


Cool!
 
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One one hand, I'm an old-school freak. I'm uncomfortable with independent clauses joined by a conjunction but lacking a comma, or compound adjectives hyphenated when they appear after then noun they modify (or even before the noun, but using a word ending in "ly"), or omission of the so-called Harvard/Oxford comma, or... You get the idea.

But on the other hand, I appreciate that English is evolving, and there's a constant tension between "prescriptive" and "descriptive" grammar. In effect, persistent breaking of the rules eventually changes those rules. And I think that's good. (Whose language is it, anyway?)

With the modes of instantaneous, multicultural communication available today, I think we are seeing "written" language evolve at an unprecedented rate. Rather than a "manageable" snail's pace, English is suddenly talking a quantum leap with no indication that this "leap" will land us anywhere stable. We used to regard the Earth as stationary, and we could depend on that. But now we can't deny it's spinning, and fast. As Ulf pointed out, it's the adjustment that's difficult, so for those of us accustomed to the snail...
[ April 27, 2008: Message edited by: marc weber ]
 
Pat Farrell
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Originally posted by marc weber:
English is evolving

it's the adjustment that's difficult



Change is not something that comes easily to humans. We normally take thousands of years to change, and thus life is constant to most generations.

I expect that English will cease to be associated with England over the next generations, and it will become some sort of polyglot language.

I tend to wish the 'net used something other than English, as many other languages are a lot more regular and easier to learn for folks from other cultures. But I only know English and a tiny bit of French, so having English as the defacto universal language is fine with me.

What the folks on Andromeda's planets speak will be discovered RSN.
 
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I read this very cool essay (actually transcript of a lecture) today:

http://www.herecomeseverybody.org/2008/04/looking-for-the-mouse.html

The fifty-cent version is that radical societal changes need some kind of crutch. Using the crutch hobbles the society for a while during the adjustment period; then the crutch is cast aside and the full potential is realized. The crutch for the industrial revolution in Great Britain was gin. The crutch for the postwar period in America was the sitcom, and we're just now casting aside the crutch of television. As people's minds turn away from passive entertainment, amazing things are going to happen (the author says).

How is this relevant to the discussion? Well, er, um, maybe it's not. Sorry.
 
marc weber
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By the way... uh, I mean, btw, this is clearly an affront towards those of us using lowercase display names.
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Pat,
I don't associate English with England now. Granted I know where English came from, but I don't speak that dialect. Similar enough to understand, but different

Ernest,
The crutch thing is interesting. It's interesting that the crutch doesn't entirely go away. We still have sitcoms although they aren't embedded in culture as much. It's not a crutch anymore though, which is probably the point. Also, sometimes the crutch doesn't work. How long has the US been trying to convert to the metric system now?

And why be relevant to the discussion? This is MD after all

marc,
Yeah. This whole thread was just to get at you. Just kidding. err j/k
 
marc weber
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Originally posted by Jeanne Boyarsky:
...
marc,
Yeah. This whole thread was just to get at you. Just kidding. err j/k


I knew it!



( :roll: )
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Originally posted by marc weber:
I knew it!


But you used capitalization! .
 
Ulf Dittmer
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Do we get to pick crutches? Personally, I'm more of a gin man, myself, than a sitcom man, but, whatever floats your boat, I suppose. (I figured more commas, rather than less, would be rather better, or so.)
 
Pat Farrell
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Originally posted by Jeanne Boyarsky:
[QB]I don't associate English with England now. Granted I know where English came from, but I don't speak that dialect.



My wife loves watching BBC mysteries. I can only understand a small portion of the words. We use the closed captioning system to have a clue. The accents are difficult for us, but the words they use, non-literal phrases, idions, etc are opaqueue even with subtitles.
 
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marc weber: <...> I'm uncomfortable with independent clauses joined by a conjunction but lacking a comma, <...>

Allow me to cause you great discomfort:

He wanted cash and she wanted thrills.
I turned left and she turned right.
I turned left and she turned tricks.
I won't go down in history but I'd go down on you. [1]

Etc.

[1] Er, provided for entertainment purposes only, not to be construed as an actual proposition.
[ April 27, 2008: Message edited by: Michael Matola ]
 
Michael Matola
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Slightly more relevant:

I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse.
I helped my uncle Jack off a horse.
i helped my uncle jack off a horse

Discuss.
 
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cough
 
Mapraputa Is
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PF: I tend to wish the 'net used something other than English, as many other languages are a lot more regular and easier to learn for folks from other cultures.

Hm, I wonder how you got this impression. When I was studying English, I was very happy that its grammar is rather simple and easy to learn. Do you have some language in mind that is easier and more regular than English (other than Esperanto )?

PF: I'm not close to being an expert in Arabic presentation, but they have four 'forms' of letters, which are different looks when the letter is used in different contexts. So one could argue that they have four cases, where English and many western European languages have only two.

That's true! I forgot about it.

Says Wikipedia,
"Each individual letter can have up to four distinct forms, based on its position within in the word. These forms are:

* Initial: at the beginning of a word; or in the middle of a word, after a non-connecting letter.
* Medial: between two connecting letters (non-connecting letters lack a medial form).
* Final: at the end of a word following a connecting letter.
* Isolated: at the end of a word following a non-connecting letter; or used independently."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_alphabet

And I didn't know that "Arabic writing system is the second-most widely used alphabet around the world" -- after Latin.

My first thought was that you are right and English capitalization is just one particular case and Arabic represents a more generic approach, but after more thinking it seems that Arabic rules are concerned with a different thing: how to connect letters in a word, rather then how to put emphasis on certain nouns, names, or the first word in a sentence.

I think Latin itself did not have upper and lower case.

I doubt there is an alphabet that had this distinction from the very beginning (with possible exception for alphabets that were created rather late in history and were modeled after some other alphabets). It's probably a matter of evolution. In any case, Wikipedia confirms your hypothesis,

"The first word of a sentence is not capitalised in most modern editions of Ancient Greek and, to a lesser extent, Latin texts. However, the distinction between lower and upper case was not introduced before the Middle Ages; in Antiquity only the capital forms of letters were known."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalisation

Jeanne: And presumably they've always been that way. English hasn't.

Yeah, I am not aware of any alphabet that had this distinction and then lost it. If anybody knows such a case, please post here ASAP.

But my point was that there are languages that don't make this distinction, and they serve their societies well, so a lanaguage without upper/lowercase letter distinction is not necessarily a degraded version of a more "advanced" language. Similarly, contemporary English grammar lost many features English had in past (the case system being one such case), but I doubt you would agree that English "degraded" since, say, 13th century, or call 13th-century English "actual English".
[ April 28, 2008: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
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[Map]: But my point was that there are languages that don't make this distinction, and they serve their societies well, so a lanaguage without upper/lowercase letter distinction is not necessarily a degraded version of a more "advanced" language. Similarly, contemporary English grammar lost many features English had in past (the case system being one such case), but I doubt you would agree that English "degraded" since, say, 13th century, or call 13th-century English "actual English".

Few of us would say that, but I wouldn't be surprised if a time traveler from the 13th century viewed it that way. Well, I'd be surprised at the time travel, but not the attitude. We each apply our own standards and view the world relative to that. In this case it hardly seems worth a lecture on cultural relativism unless they're trying to force their views on others.
 
Mapraputa Is
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And I would insist on seeing my posts as a way of ironically pointing out the inherent limitations of attempts to impose a single linguistic interpretation upon culturally relative constructions.



"What do you want me to do? LEAVE? Then they'll keep being wrong!"
[ April 28, 2008: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
marc weber
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i didn't know we could capitalize on the net. when did this enhancement go in?
 
Jim Yingst
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marc, it's just a tool of our capitalizationist oppressors. fight the power, man!
 
marc weber
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THIS IS SO COOL!!!

DOES CAPITALIZATION RENDER CORRECTLY IN IE?
 
Pat Farrell
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Originally posted by marc weber:
THIS IS SO COOL!!!



Poor marc, his keyboard is clearly broken
 
Mapraputa Is
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down with majuscules/minuscules !

ALL LETTERS ARE CREATED EQUAL !
 
Jim Yingst
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filthy capitalizationist pigs!
 
marc weber
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Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
marc, it's just a tool of our capitalizationist oppressors. fight the power, man!


CAn'T resISt... I kNow sHift key is bAd, buT...
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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TRY PRESSING THE SHIFT KEY REALLY HARD, THEN YOU GET THIS
 
Ulf Dittmer
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Poor marc, his keyboard is clearly broken


While it's fun to think that the problem is with marc (although generally that's not an unreasonable assumption), in this case it's got more to do with geographical reasons. As the graphic shows, Minnesota -where marc hails from- simply does not have the most RAM, and thus is stuck with Web 2.7, while most of us have moved on to Web 3.1.
 
marc weber
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Originally posted by Ulf Dittmer:
... Minnesota -where marc hails from- simply does not have the most RAM, and thus is stuck with Web 2.7, while most of us have moved on to Web 3.1...


That's because it's too cold for rams here, and we have to turn the crank really hard just to boot up. If we tried to use Web 3.1 in the winter, we might never get it started, and that could bring the whole internet down. I've heard that Web 3.1 has done away with the rotary dial entirely. How do you connect?
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Map,
That cartoon is adorable.

Turns out ALL CAPITALIZATION is just as annoying as none!
 
marc weber
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Well, Amazon and eBay seemed to have capitalized on the net.
 
Mapraputa Is
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Ulf: So while everybody might be fine once we're used to the changes Jeanne outlined, until we're there (and that might never happen to anyone who learned languages like we did), it could be rather disconcerting for at least some of us.

Sure, and in regard of prescriptivist guilty pleasures I am no better than the other guy. My roommate is a desperate texter, so everything she sends me via email or Yahoo Messenger is written in Textlish. I could never bring myself to answer her in the same manner, because it looks like unnecessary sloppiness to me.

Maybe this rant by renowned prof. Pullum, an author of the cult 1860-page Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, will bring some consolation. He is apparently not bothered.
[ April 29, 2008: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
Ulf Dittmer
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My roommate is a desperate texter


Must be a hell of a room if that's how you communicate.
 
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Texting is the only God-approved way of communication. I noticed it when we were in church. To talk on the phone during service was out of question, but texting was Ok, God didn't mind.
 
Mapraputa Is
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Ulf: Personally, I'm more of a gin man, myself, than a sitcom man

Definitely gin is better! As Clay Shirky said in Ernest's quote:

At least they're doing something !

P.S. I need to get the book.
 
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Reading that article makes me glad that I do not watch much television [just the odd football match].

Interesting, it reminded me of the "Idols of the Marketplace" [Bacon]. Go search

"Television is chewing gum for the eyes" - Frank Lloyd Wright
 
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I like gum.
 
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PF: I'm not close to being an expert in Arabic presentation, but they have four 'forms' of letters, which are different looks when the letter is used in different contexts. So one could argue that they have four cases, where English and many western European languages have only two.

There is a very cool post on languagehat.com today:

"A very interesting article by Eildert Mulder about the difficulty of setting Arabic script in type:

The technical problem is this: Arabic letters are generally not written separately but joined to each other in groups or entire words, like a script typeface in English. And though the Arabic alphabet has only 28 letters, most letters have four forms, depending on whether they occur at the beginning of the word, in the middle of the word, at the end of the word, or stand alone. Furthermore, each combination of letters is unique, creating a typographic challenge greater than Chinese. Because all letters connect dynamically with the preceding one, and most also with the following one, the number of unique combinations is almost astronomical.

The esthetic problem comes from the dizzying mutability of written Arabic. For example, there are actually three ways the letter ha can be written in the middle of a word, and the calligrapher�s choice is influenced not only by the letter immediately preceding the ha, but also by the letters earlier in the word, and even by letters that follow it�yet, in whatever form, it is still in essence the ha in the beginner�s textbook. A sequence of letters can run along a baseline the way Roman letters do�though Arabic runs from right to left, of course�or they may start above the baseline and descend in a diagonal if the connections from one letter to the next make that an esthetically pleasing choice.

..."
http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003111.php
 
Pat Farrell
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Originally posted by Mapraputa Is:
The esthetic problem ... of written Arabic.



And as I understand it, making it great looking is part of the requirements.
So its a non-trivial challenge.
 
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