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Cursive vs Print

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Postby frank » Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:38 am

We that speak and write English have two ways to write the written word. We can write in cursive and/or print. Cursive means having the successive letters joined. It comes from the Latin (scripta) cursiva, running (script). The cursive almost looks like a different language from printing when written because some letters look very different in cursive. Is there any other language that does this, if not, why do we do it?


I think this is quite common, if not normal. The same happens with written Russian and Greek, but also with Korean and Hindi, etc. etc.
By coincidence, I am currently searching for samples of handwritten Chinese characters on line.
I only could find things like this so far:
Image
It is not a very good example since it is taken from calligraphy website, but it gives at least an impression of handwritten Chinese.
I couldn't find good examples of handwritten Arabic or Persian online either, but its cursive form goes not only from right to left (obviously), but it seems as if every word starts right above the 'basic line' and goes down to the left, under the basic line, at least in Persian. [I use 'basic line because i completely lack the right terminology for all that]. Lots of letters and combination of letters get compressed and sometimes only the dots indicate whether one is dealing with a تـ or نـ . The 'waves' of ش are hardly handwritten, and the dots are often rendered as a circle, idem dito for سـ (word initial) from
_|_|_| to ______|.

Add to this the fact that in the Arabic script (printed and handwritten) some letters have up to 4 different forms, and that in calligraphy and in handwritten samples letters can be stretched enormously; I can assure you that it doesn't make reading handwritten stuff easier :-).

IMO, this written sample comes quite close to printed Arabic, nevertheless I have enormous problems reading it.

But even Ancient Egyptian had two sets of scripts at a certain period: the hieroglyphic script (and let's equate them with 'printed' script here) is quite different from the hieratic script (and later the demotic script), the script basically used on papyrus.
Here you can find examples.

And does this make it harder for people to learn to write and read English as a second language? I'm sure someone out there has the answer...BD? Hint, hint.

I have the impression that it is an enormously underestimated problem in a classroom situation. Obviously not for people who learned to read/write a Latin based script as kids, but for people who had to learn the Latin script at a (slightly) later age. I already had a lot of students with an Arabic background who could read printed material in Dutch, but who had tremendous problems with reading handwritten texts (on the blackboard) and who had problems writing (one of the indicators is the mixing of capitals and small letters in woRDs). I also remember the complaints during the Chinese classes when the teacher's written characters differed too much from the printed characters (but, as he said, resembled more the way Chinese usually handwrite the characters).
The few books I read about illiterate and non-alphabeticized adults and second language learning don't even touch upon the subject of handwritten vs. printed texts.

On the other hand... I realise that handwritten texts are a necessary medium in a classroom situation, but nevertheless I wonder why we spend so much energy in learning non- or semi-alphabeticised people how to handwrite.
- most handwritten texts are used for private reasons (but then, stritcly speaking, the script and not even the language matters - when in China, i'm not going to write my list of stuff to buy in the supermarket in Chinese),
- most things I write for public usage I write on a computer (we don't learn Latin with a chisel and a block of marble either),
- learning people how to handwrite properly takes a lot of time and energy, which imo could be spend better on more useful issues in the language learning process,
[and I wonder who still often handwrite stuff, which things and for which purpose].

That's my 2 cents.

Frank
Last edited by frank on Wed Aug 09, 2006 6:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby frank » Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:59 am

Flaminius wrote:One oddity from Japanese cursive tradition is 々. This is not a character because it has no independent sound value or meaning. This is more like a symbol, which indicates the kanji immediately before it is repeated.

It's also used in Chinese, if I'm not wrong.
BTW, hwo do you form it on your keyboard? :-)

F
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Postby Bailey » Wed Aug 09, 2006 11:11 am

Bailey, maybe you were destined to be a doctor if you say your writing is that bad.

I was a hospital ward clerk once, I was required to read the prescriptions, it's really not that hard once you have the key. It's not so much poor penmanship in this case but rather a combination of latin, symbols, acronyms, and English that makes it hard for the uninitated to read. Doctors get a bad rap, because they must write so much in the hospital records and for 'prescriptions, they probably also do have poor writing, but their prescriptions are legible more so than my writing.
for instance :
dexamil 2mg BID, npo á 1000, Image dressing TID.
means, roughly take your meds twice a day, no food or drink after 8pm, change bandages three times a day.

mark npo-after-8-anyway Bailey
the triangle which means change is supposed to be small but well, you know.

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Postby skinem » Wed Aug 09, 2006 5:43 pm

Does anyone know if there are any examples of cursive vs printing in any native American languages? I don't really believe there were any written native Amercian languages until European arrivals. I had understood (perhaps, and probably, incorrectly)that one or two of the languages put into writing had not stuck exactly with english spellings.

Handwriting in school is not emphasized as it once was. Mine has deteriorated horribly, probably because of 25 years of writing hurriedly. This is how horribel my writing is...I wrote a check at the little country store down the road and the owner said "You must have a lot of money." Why? "I have a theory; the worse a man's writing, the more money he has. You're loaded!" I have disproved his theory.
But, because of my pre-computer drafting, my printing is beautiful!
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Postby malachai » Wed Aug 09, 2006 11:29 pm

skinem,

Mayan was written with hieroglyphics before European contact. Many languages have developed their own orthographies after European contact, for instance Cree
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cree.htm

I am not aware of any cursive varieties, though.
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Postby Flaminius » Thu Aug 10, 2006 12:16 am

frank wrote:
Flaminius wrote:One oddity from Japanese cursive tradition is 々. This is not a character because it has no independent sound value or meaning. This is more like a symbol, which indicates the kanji immediately before it is repeated.

It's also used in Chinese, if I'm not wrong.
BTW, hwo do you form it on your keyboard? :-)

F


I don't know if it is used in Chinese as well. Most of the Chinese I communicate by IM repeat the first kanji. But who knows? With PC getting more and more rich with font, hiragana and katakana have begun to be used in Chinese and Korean chatboards.

I type kurikaeshi (くりかえし: repetition) with Micro$oft IME. When I hit the space bar, repetition symbols are among the conversion candidates.
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Postby skinem » Thu Aug 10, 2006 7:38 am

Thanks Malachai. I guess I wasn't entirely clear. I knew that prior to Eurpoean arrival that the Mayan and Incan tribes had a language using a combination of pictographs and symbols, but I didn't really consider that as a written language with letters exactly. (Of course, I could be wrong. Very wrong!)

I can't imagine how you'd write cursive pictographs!
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Postby malachai » Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:31 am

As a point of interest, the Mayan script does have a phonological component, with about 150 "syllabograms"
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/mayan.htm

This is pretty interesting too:
"The Inca used a system of knotted strings known as quipu to send messages around their empire. The number and shape of the knots and the colours of the strings helped to remind messengers of the contents of the messages. Recent research suggests that the quipu might have been used not just as mnemonic devices but also to record the Quechua language phonetically."
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/quechua.htm
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Postby gailr » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:21 pm

skinem wrote:I can't imagine how you'd write cursive pictographs!

Frank posted the Omniglot links above, comparing hieroglyphs to hieratic and demotic. It's one thing when you have decades to painstakingly carve the king's accomplishments and titles [blah blah blah] into stone. For business and legal records, not to mention quickly dashing off political satire, you need something faster.
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:Burm: -'scuse me

Postby sluggo » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:43 pm

I seem to remember reading that Burmese (is it Myanmaric now?) developed its writing with entirely curved forms since it was first done on palm leaves, where straght lines would have torn the leaf...

This is just a seed, someone else can water not "grow" it.
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Re: :Burm: -'scuse me

Postby malachai » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:50 pm

That's what I've heard too. But Burmese has some straight lines as well, not many, but some. So I guess they tore some leaves.
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Postby Bailey » Thu Aug 10, 2006 6:01 pm

maybe they needed a softer stylus.

mark types-softly-carries-big-stick Bailey

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Postby anders » Fri Aug 11, 2006 5:06 pm

Suppose there were a song in Chinese named Beijing, Beijing. You could write it 北京々々。 Single 々's are used in Chinese as shown for Japanese. In Hindi and Indonesian, the repetition of a word may be indicated by a superscripted numeral 2.

Frank, go here for a utility and font to write in the Nasta'liq ('hanging') way you described. Beautiful! Unfortunately, the pdf making software I bought recently won't handle it, in spite of its managing normal Naskh for Arabic, Devanagari for Hindi/Sanskrit and several others, where Adobe Acrobat didn't even try.

If you're into interesting cursive scripts, try Tibetan. Or look at the signature of H.H. the Dalai Lama!
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On the subject...

Postby eberntson » Fri Aug 11, 2006 7:14 pm

When I have been to the museum, I have noticed that Sanskrit and Arabic alphabets have many styles. Several of them seem to have a block form and then a cursive form. Am I correct is assuming some forms of these are cursive? Also, I have seem writing from Tibet that has several styles some very cursive like in style.

It’s funny I am a IT type now, but I was trained as an engineer and my writing is atrocious. I read a study once that said that although doctors have the worst handwriting, engineers have the second worst. It seems to be because doctors & engineers have to take so many notes in class. I always had to copy my note over each day so I could read them & share them. I have found when I did drafting, learned to use a Palm Pilot (palmscript), and am doing calligraphy my writing does improve for a couple of weeks. Although I work with an IT gal and we have a similar background and her writing is beautiful, clear, and consistent. Apparently, I am the exception, the only thing I can do exact lines on are sketches.

What color where the inks back in Catholic school? Black & blue were popular this century, but in the 1800’s there seems to have been a lot of umber colored ink. Leonardo Da Vinci notes are all brown ink.

Eric
Last edited by eberntson on Mon Aug 14, 2006 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On the subject...

Postby skinem » Fri Aug 11, 2006 8:16 pm

[quote="eberntsonWhat color where the ink back in Catholic school? Black & blue were popular this century, but in the 1800’s there seems to have been a lot of umber colored ink. Leonardo Da Vinci notes are all brown ink.
Eric[/quote]

I thought the inks were all blue or black and that the umber color was due to the breaking down of pigments and acids in the paper over time. What materials produced the umber color?
Last edited by skinem on Fri Aug 11, 2006 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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