What feels partial to me

I never suspected that offering to host the greymatter hacks and mods site would lead to this…

Over the past year or so, I've stated one thing repeatedly: I'm not a coder. I'm a graphic designer and a writer. With the listing of writing comes one small caveat—'linguist.' Languages—their similarities, differences, pronunciations, and etymologies—are a source of endless fascination for me. Everyone carries around useless and random tidbits in their heads. One of the tidbits in mine: I know that 'avalanche' is the only commonly-used word in the English language that is derived from Romansh (the fourth official language of Switzerland). Another: that both Hungarian and Finnish, while Indo-European languages, branched off so early from the rest of the common Indo-European languages (think French, English, Spanish, Italian, etc.) that they bear almost no resemblance whatsoever to the rest of the Indo-European languages.

When I offered to host the greymatter hacks site, I asked myself—'What can I offer to the site, since I'm not a coder?'

I decided to put my linguistic and investigative skills to work. Since the days of the week and months of the year were hard-coded into greymatter's scripts, several users had requested special versions of greymatter that provided versions for their preferred language.

I got started—and the further I dug, the more interested I became. I realized that the chances of someone actually needing a Hungarian or Scotch Gaelic version of greymatter were slim, but that I was doing this research more for my own benefit than for the hacked versions of greymatter that resulted.

A few days ago, I decided to put my results into tabular form and make them available on the web. I had been chagrined to discover that no one, it seems, has bothered to do this and do it right.

What is doing it right, you ask? For me, it's using Unicode characters to correctly represent alphabetical characters. Using é instead of e'. Using escaped characters, not graphics, to display Cyrillic and Greek letters.

I've posted my results on this page. I admit it's a partial list; I'm missing languages that should be there, but which I'm having trouble finding reliable dictionaries or listings for on the Web. If I know that a language makes extensive use of accented characters and the available listings have none, I have chosen to assume that the dictionary's been dumbed down for the diacritical-afraid English-speakers, and have chosen not to use it until I find one that correctly reflects the source language.

Then again, what feels partial to me may be exhaustive to others!

Some random comments from creating this page:

  • The Czechs will slap a caron on any letter that doesn't run away first.
  • Wicked! I can make posts with hiragana characters! That's so cool! If you've enabled Japanese support with your browser, then my name looks like this in translation: あゆみ
  • I thought Lithuanian was a derivative of Russian, but it certainly looks like a Latin-derivative to me now…
  • Switzerland: a tiny country with four languages. Amazing that Romansh survived so long when it was so different and spoken by so few people…
  • It becomes clear how isolated parts of the British Isles are when you look at the differences between Welsh and, well, anything else…
  • Russian is much closer to Greek than I'd realized, until I put the two side-by-side this morning and realized that many of the unfamiliar letters in the Cyrillic alphabet were taken directly from Greek.

Side note 1: spouse and I are currently discussing music. Did Foreigner ever write any song that wasn't specifically about sex?

Side note 2: Geof has loaned me an album of Dave Brubeck songs. This is some seriously fascinating stuff—look for plenty of Brubeck and Thelonious Monk to appear regularly on the playlist for a while.

That's all. Carry on.