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Re: terminology

This page is part of the web mail archives of SRFI 52 from before July 7th, 2015. The new archives for SRFI 52 contain all messages, not just those from before July 7th, 2015.

    > From: bear <bear@xxxxxxxxx>

    > On Tue, 10 Feb 2004, Tom Lord wrote:

    >> Programmers building global computing environments have need for
    >> certain categories of characters which historically, are of little or
    >> no interest to linguists.  One of these categories is comprised of
    >> many of the characters used to write words, whether those characters
    >> are alphabetic, syllabic, or ideographic.   Linguistics hasn't given
    >> us a term for that category.

    > Well, actually it has.  Linguists call these categories "glyphs" or
    > "graphemes", usually with varying degrees of precision or varying
    > exact meaning depending on the context or speaker.  

Um, I _think_ you are wrong.   Are you _certain_ of what you say?

I'm not aware of what specific technical meaning "glyph" or "grapheme"
may have in academic linguistics, but I would be quite surprised to
find that it excluded, say, digits, punctuation, and other marks which
do not constitute "words" in the (loose) sense used in computing.

It seems to me that the computing sense of "letter" originates out of
parsing -- a need to disambiguate between that which may be an
identifier vs. that which may denote something else (such as a number
or a syntactic marker).   I would (will?) be surprised to learn that
linguistics has anticipated the need for such distinctions.