Font-related problem for linguists

Wolfgang Schulze W.Schulze at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Thu Mar 1 16:28:33 UTC 2012

Dear Christian, dear all,
just one point as for Christian's #1: Not using a special mode to 
indicate the 'mention feature' of a sign chain might cause ambiguities 
even when writing in IPA. Confer a construed passage like this: "In 
language X, there are terms like like or or that stand for for." If you 
use for instance Times New Roman, no difference between 'mention' and 
'use' would show up. In this case, bracketing would perhaps be 
appropriate ("In language X, there are terms like [like] or [or] that 
stand for [for]"). In my humble opinion, italics would result in a more 
readable and eye-friendly version ("in language X, there are terms like 
/like/ or /or/ that stand for /for/"). But this may be a matter of taste...
Best wishes,

Am 01.03.2012 15:57, schrieb Christian Lehmann:
> Dear colleagues,
> let me please question the presuppositions of Don's query:
> 1) Italics are needed (alas, almost only in linguistics) to mark an 
> expression as being mentioned rather than used. What matters here in 
> the first place is not the status of the material as being object of 
> the discourse rather than part of it, but instead marking off the 
> *difference* between mention and use. That, however, can be achieved 
> in a variety of ways. Among them is setting off the example in an 
> indented paragraph of its own (and numbering it). Another is to put it 
> in a different type font. If, for instance, you quote Greek examples 
> in your English linguistic text and quote them in the Greek alphabet, 
> it is superfluous to italicize them. The purpose of marking them as 
> mentioned rather than used is achieved sufficiently by the difference 
> in the fonts. And has anybody ever seen a quoted piece of text written 
> in Chinese characters and italicized? Now the same goes for quoting 
> linguistic material in IPA. Since the metalinguistic text is not 
> written in IPA, the purpose of marking the object-language material 
> off is achieved sufficiently by putting it in IPA. No italics needed.
> 2) Writing in italics is cursive writing. The slanting is one aspect 
> of cursive writing. However, on top of this, a couple of letters used 
> to have different shapes in cursive writing. /a/ is among them, but it 
> also used to be true for /r/ and /z/. Apparently, /a/ is the only one 
> whose special shape in cursive writing has survived in some of the 
> italics fonts. (There are, of course, fonts that imitate handwriting 
> and that attend to the other letters mentioned, too). Thus, the 
> purpose cannot possibly be to ban /a/ from the italic font variants, 
> declare it a special letter and always have it appear as /a/ in 
> italics. That must be left to the individual fonts. One might argue 
> that a font that provides IPA characters should italicize a as /a/ and 
> ?as /?/.(hope my different fonts come through here). However (see #1), 
> is it really needed?
> Best wishes,
> Christian
> -- 
> Prof. Dr. Christian Lehmann
> Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft
> Universität Erfurt
> Postf. 900221
> D - 99105 Erfurt
> Tel.:   +49/361/737-4201    (selbst)
>          +49/361/737-4200    (Sekr.)
> Fax:    +49/361/737-4209
> E-Post:Christian.Lehmann at Uni-Erfurt.De



*Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schulze *


Institut für Allgemeine & Typologische Sprachwissenschaft

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Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

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D-80539 München

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<mailto:W.Schulze at>/// Wolfgang.Schulze at 
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