What is sharp S

it's a long s - s ligature
just for the record: it isn’t.
I do not want to hijack this conversation with that matter.
@Andreas Stötzner You meant that today it's a letter in its own right, correct? It's different orthographically and phonemically from ss, so it's not a ligature (even if it originated as one).
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  • I think he probably meant that historically it's a ligature for long s and z. It's also called 'eszett' in German, meaning 's-z'. Somehow this transformed into a kind of replacement for ss over time, and the design of the sharp s followed suit, but others are better at explaining what happened there.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited January 29
    Yes, even in the modern form I think the right-side portion can be equally well thought of as either an s or a Blackletter z. But this didn't seem to satisfy Andreas, see towards the bottom of this thread https://typedrawers.com/discussion/3486/precomposed-fractions-waste-of-time-and-space

  • The proposal Andreas Stötzner presented to Unicode Consortium explains it very well:
  • @Andreas Stötzner You meant that today it's a letter in its own right, correct? It's different orthographically and phonemically from ss, so it's not a ligature (even if it originated as one).
    As far as I can go back in printing history ß was always used as an own letter.

    Duden 1973 "das heute als ein eigener Buchstabe angesehen wird" (today seen as a own letter). Duden 1943 doesn't have this remark.

    Unicode also names it LATIN SMALL/CAPITAL SHARP S and not DOUBLE S or ESZETT.

    IF not available in a font, typewriter etc. the current suggestion of Duden and Austrian orthography is to use SS.

    AFAIR Unicode before 5.1 also casefolded ß to SS. 

    I learned in school (1960ies, Austria) to use SZ in capital letters. Both SZ and SS where used. Using SS is ambiguous, because Masse (mass) and Maße (measures) is not the same.

    It's just orthography. Pronunciation of Standard-German changed in the last 50 years and is regionally different. The rhotic r disappeared, vocalised, same for l, not much difference between the forms of s, also d/t, b/p. My name sound like Helmud Woimasdoafa.

    BTW: Duden 1973 suggests following ligatures in typesetting:
    Antiqua: ff, fi, fl, ß
    Fraktur: ch, ck, ff, fl,ft, ll, longs_c_h, longs_i, longs_longs_, longs_t, ß, tz
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 594
    Well, I at least qualified my comment - or at least in most Roman typefaces, it appears to be a ligature of long s and s. However, in Fraktur typefaces, it appears to be a ligature of long s and z instead. This already casts doubt on its status as a ligature, as something that can be either ss or sz is not exactly equivalent to either one of those two digraphs.
    That Germans today no longer think of it as a ligature, but as a letter in its own right, is something I am quite willing to accept. And, of course, that status is precisely what has led to the demand for an upper-case eszet, since if it isn't a ligature any longer, decomposing it into two "s"s in a row for all-caps text is no longer appropriate.
    Of course, when I talk about what something is, often I am talking about what it is at heart, at its roots, and in this case one can say that its original root nature is as a ligature. But things can grow and develop from their origins; if w is not a ligature for uu or vv any more, the eszet can also move on.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    @John Savard I appreciated your usage of appears. But as for “to be”, I feel was is more appropriate than is.
  • Luc(as) has some illustrations and theories about the origins of ß in this article about the cap ß.
  • karstenlueckekarstenluecke Posts: 38
    edited January 29
    Also, Georg Salden’s article sz.

  • First, I need to correct myself, regarding that sentence I wrote about 15 years ago:

    > The character ß emerged as a ligature of ſ and s.

    I have been following that explanation for quite some time, because we have been taught such. Namely Jan Tschichold gives that explanation in one of his books. But it was wrong, or, at least, more than half-wrong, as I had to learn later.

    > it appears to be a ligature of long s and s

    That is exactly the point! It appears to be …  But, mainly in Blackletter type, it appears as being a ligature of long s and z. And, to add to the blurred image, the Roman type italic ſs ligature (which is truely a ligature of two s’s) was adopted later in history for the German sharp s, when Roman/Kursiv became utilized for German texts. – All this explaines what the letter looks like but not what it actually is or what its actual origin is.

    I have more recently summarized about that matter in this article. Even if you’re not reading German, have a thorough look at the images and observe the shapes of the respective ß letter in relation to the s’s and z’s of the same setting. You’ll find notable differences, many different forms and rarely any resemblance of the ß’s right part with s or z. – So, what is it?
    • Nobody knows exactly (not even I).
    • It is a long s with something appended to it.
    • In the earliest written or printed examples, a ſ-s or ſ-z parentage cannot be testified. Not even in the (probably) earliest German-language Roman-type example (Lichtenthaler 1667).
    • It is possible, but not yet researched extensively, that medieval Latin abbreviation marks have served as a kind of model for that ponytail something which turns a ſ into a ß.

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 594
    I have a question, as I know very little about the German language. I have only encountered the eszet being used where "ss" could have been used. Is the eszet ever used in German to replace "sz" instead? And, given that German orthography has changed over time - with a recent change leading to sequences like sss and ssss in some words - had the eszet been previously used to replace "sz" in some words, even if it is not so used at present?
  • Sharp-s is is not replacing ‘ss’ or ‘sz’. The other way around can happen when there is not specific glyph for it e.g. in all caps settings. 
    And I can’t think of a word with ‘sz’ (maybe in a compound word, but then it would never be ligated).
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited January 30
    Jahreszeit comes to mind, so a compound.
    But as I mentioned in the other thread, you can spot some last names with SZ resulting from old orthography or capitalization. It is quite rare, though, in wiki entries for Weiss and Gross I was only able to spot a single instance of Weisz and Grosz in the lists of people.
    Also, the article on eszett itself states that "In alphabetic ordering, ß is equivalent to the string ss (formerly sz)", so that's some hint.
    Can there really be words with ssss though? (Other than ssssch! :D ) Eszett doesn't begin words, for all I know.

  • Can there really be words with ssss though? (Other than ssssch! :D ) Eszett doesn't begin words, for all I know.
    There are many compounds with sss (and other triple consonants) in German, but ssss can't appear, because there is no word in German beginning with a double consonant. 
    I checked this in my list of 1.7 million of the most frequent German words with a regular expression. Theoretically it is possible to construct a senseless compound with Kanaa (biblic geonym) and one of the many words beginning with aa: Kanaaaal.

    There are a few words beginning with sz like Szene, Szintigramm, but they are all of foreign origin (Latin, Greek).

    Inside a word the sequence sz appears often, like in Tagesarbeitszeit, because s is a genitive ending: Tag-es-arbeit-s-zeit 
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited January 30
    Anyway, what's the deal with calling s ‘soft’ and ß ‘sharp’? They're voiced and unvoiced; if anything, I'd correlate that the other way round. Is that because ß [s] can be more hissing and sibilant than s [z]?
  • Should a hlig feature substitute ſ  followed by s for ß? Only for languagesystem deu?

  • Anyway, what's the deal with calling s ‘soft’ and ß ‘sharp’? They're voiced and unvoiced; if anything, I'd correlate that the other way round. Is that because ß [s] can be more hissing and sibilant than s [z]?
    In theory, but not in current practice.

    Generally a writing system should map phonetics to symbols and allow the reverse in loud reading. In practise it's a compromise between phonetics, etymology and historical development of a language. See English where pronunciation and spelling are both handled loose.

    After World War II German was still educated and drilled (with blood and tears) to pronounce like actors (Burgtheater-Deutsch). That was more a spelling pronunciation with clear distinction of the different forms of s, also depending on position in a word. In movies from this time (1920-1960) you can hear it, it's more like the speeches of Hitler. Some actors and singers still can speak it as a style. See and hear Max Raabe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOLT-1Gzdu8 making a living with it.

    Back to s and ß. S at beginning of a syllable like in Stein can be pronounced voiceless (dental) or voiced more like Schtein. The first was educated 50 years ago, the second is current usage. The difference between Masse and Maße (plural of Maß) is the vocal, short in Masse, long in Maße (and voiced ß). German orthographic reforms make it more complicated. After the first reform 1901: Schloß (short o, hard ß), Schlosses (genitive form, nearly two voiceless s), Schlösser (plural). After 1996: Schloss. Verbum schließen (long ie, voiced ß), schloss (praeteritum form, short o, unvoiced ss). It's complicated and there are not simple rules. Even more complicated are the rules for long-s, where experts can not agree in detail.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited January 31
    Words, words, words... Can't live with them, cannot live without them.
    I think I get it that you use the words sharp-soft to name the contrast between the voiceless alveolar sibilant [s] (spelled ss, ß) and voiceless palato-alveolar fricative [ʃ] (s before t, p; sch). The former is pronounced closer to the teeth (which are sharp) and indeed is a tighter sound so it makes sense to call it sharp.
    But your usage of the word voiced astounds me. In my world, [z] [ʒ] are voiced, and [s] [ʃ] are voiceless. I didn't think ß could ever be voiced. It's always pronounced [s]. It's s that varies, Sonne vs. Stein vs. Masse, [z] – [ʃ] – [s].
    As for your video link, I don't know German enough to recognize the difference.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 594
    After World War II German was still educated and drilled (with blood and tears) to pronounce like actors (Burgtheater-Deutsch). That was more a spelling pronunciation with clear distinction of the different forms of s, also depending on position in a word.

    That is interesting. But when one discusses how German is to be pronounced, the first thing I think of is the distinction between Hochdeutsch and Plattdeutsch: High German and Low German. The former is what is presented to foreigners as correct German pronounciation; the latter, apparently common in Switzerland, more resembles how an English speaker would assume how words are pronounced from how they are spelled.

    Generally a writing system should map phonetics to symbols and allow the reverse in loud reading.

    In English, of course, words are not spelled as they are pronounced; English borrows words from a number of other languages, and has tended to preserve the original spelling of borrowed words. So when you see a word, you first have to figure out which language it came from, so as to know which set of rules to apply in order to pronounce it.
    English is still spelled and pronounced much as it was in 1900 or 1850, and thus English speakers are sometimes suprised at the rapid pace of orthographic reform in some other languages.

  • Adam Jagosz Again, theory. Are you aware of the difference between [] and // IPA-notation?

    [ʃ] is a phone, where /ʃ/ is a phoneme. Phones allow to distinguish (local, individual) variants of phonemes. In an ideal world phonemes (not phones) are mapped 1:1 to graphemes (visual units) to form a writing system. A type designer implements glyphs, individual shapes of graphemes. Of course graphemes must be mapped technically to characters (codepoints) in a font. 

    Writing systems have a history. They are not changed all 50 years, when the pronunciation changed. Do we have sound recordings of Old High German 1200 years ago, when ß first appeared? Linguists try to reconstruct the pronunciation of extinct languages from dialects of isolated populations.

    On phoneme level there is no difference between ss and ß (in the most cases) in current German:

    Spaß vs. Spass – /ʃpaːs/ vs. /ʃpas/

    But the orthography is (mis-)used to distinguish between /aː/ and /a/. Using aa or ah for /aː/ would be more consistent to German orthography. That's the reason why the name Weiß often appears spelled as Weihs (also because long-s in Kurrent handwriting can look like h).

    German orthography is a constructed compromise, complicated and hard to learn. The commissions try to simplify and adapt it to current pronunciation. Ph in words of foreign origin like Photo could be simplified to Foto, because it's considered as a German word now and the pronunciation is unique. Ch in China or Chemie is kept, because the pronunciaton has 3 variants from /ʃ/ in the north to /k/ in the south. As phonetic the difference between e and ä disappeared, the changed some spellings 1996 to etymological origin, e. g. Schäfer is correct, because it originates from Schaf.

    Disclaimer: I'm not a classic linguist, but a self educated computational linguist on the level of graphemes.
  • That is interesting. But when one discusses how German is to be pronounced, the first thing I think of is the distinction between Hochdeutsch and Plattdeutsch: High German and Low German. The former is what is presented to foreigners as correct German pronounciation; the latter, apparently common in Switzerland, more resembles how an English speaker would assume how words are pronounced from how they are spelled.
    Platt is a Low German (Niederdeutsch) dialect, geographically in the north (in the flat, "low" region).

    High German (Hochdeutsch) as a language or dialect family is located in the south, including Luxembourgish, Yiddish and Swiss-German. The term Hochdeutsch is also used for Standard German or Schriftdeutsch in the narrow sense. Correctly Standard German is a New High German dialect. For many people in Germany, Switzerland and Austria Standard German is a second language and not the native one. But more and more people of younger generations speak only Standard German.

  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited January 31
    @Helmut Wollmersdorfer Yes, I was talking about phones. When talking about sounds in isolation, I thought that would be more appropriate. But IANAL. Nevermind.
    For the record:
    > Maße (and voiced ß)
    I suppose that's /ma:sɛ/, not /ma:zɛ/, so not voiced. I wonder though if you just tripped on my usage of s as in German syllable onset, or if you actually have another term in German for that that got mixed up. I have to admit this matter is very tricky to discuss.
    As for the long vs short vowel, that's nothing unique to the German language, it appears in at least a couple other languages as well, including English, though here's the Great Vowel Shift to disguise it (or actually, enhance).
  • Adam Jagosz 

    > Maße (and voiced ß)

    Because I speak it voiced. In German s between vocals is ​[⁠z⁠]​ voiced alveolar fricative. Using [z] for ß is still within recognised /s/. I learned to make the distinction between Masse and Maße. Don't forget that German isn't a unique Language like it maybe looks for an outsider through a pinhole. It consists of 1200 dialects and even Standard German is spoken with regional accents, differences in grammar, words and morphology. I can identify the accent and region of German speakers in most cases, when they speak Standard German. The ideal or neutral Standard German is maybe spoken in Hannover or Frankfurt, by many but not all speakers in television, or by selected actors for synchronisation of Hollywood movies. Let alone Swiss accent, which many people confuse with Swiss-German, a hard to understand dialect.

  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited January 31
    That's fascinating, thanks for the clarification! One of those “You know nothing, John Snow” moments for me.
    I went on pondering the possible reason for this phenomenon, but I guess an assimilation like that is comparable to flap t in English... right?
  • It should be noted that German got unified spelling unusually late for a major European language, only in the late 19th century. In the 17th and early 18th century German spelling varied a lot, and “longs+z” was one of the variants of writing the “sharp” s sound, as was “longs+s”. Add to that the prolonged use of blackletter that conserved the use of the long s (and its ligatures), while long s had long vanished from other European languages. 
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,521
    edited February 1
    Anyway, what's the deal with calling s ‘soft’ and ß ‘sharp’? They're voiced and unvoiced; if anything, I'd correlate that the other way round. Is that because ß [s] can be more hissing and sibilant than s [z]?
    I've met people in the past (mostly on the CONLANG-L discussion list) who thought of voiced stops as «soft» and unvoiced ones as «hard», which I found utterly absurd. After all, a «b» sounds like the plucking of a string whereas «p» sounds like an impact on a hard surface.
    I think the reason for that usage is that English (at least American English?) (ab)uses the word «soft» to mean «not loud» in addition to «not hard», and voiceless stops do usually have lower volume than voiced ones. Some 15 years later, that still won't fit into my head.
  • Adam Twardoch Before ~1750 spelling, layout, quality of typefaces, printing and paper was very inconsistent, chaotic. I compile my own spelling dictionaries for German and cluster them roughly 1750, 1830, 1875 (first orthographic conference, big milestone), 1901 (1st spelling reform), 1996 (2nd spelling reform, "New spelling").

    In the times of early printing, 16th century, there still influence from MHD (Middle High German), i. e. not clean NHD (New High German). E. g. new for neu, Kreüter for Kräuter.

    In the history of Blackletter and Fraktur ("The German Script") it's interesting, why the Germans kept so long this ugly and impractical typeface. First, Gutenberg imitated the calligraphy of the monks. His bible should look like one of the very expensive handwritten copies. 

    Then simpler typefaces like Schwabacher were created. Reduced set of types: letters, numbers, punctuation, ~12 ligatures, long-s, rotunda, ß. At time of Albrecht Dürer Fraktur was designed, still coming from profan calligraphy (professional writing masters), and still like Schwabacher in the character of a flat pen (feather) held at 45 degrees and dominating stems.

    Early printing was brought to other countries by German printers. Some resettled to Italy, Netherlands, Austria or England. At the beginning the French printers used German forms and designed very early their Batard (Bastarda). In Italy they never used Blackletter (AFAIK). England changed very early, but still use their own Blackletter for display. Every important manufacturer of types or fonts in the English speaking world offers Blackletter like "Wedding".

    Long-s was used in all European languages, also in Latin printed in Italian cursive. The first German books in Antiqua (late 18th century) also had long-s up into the 20th century, but the long-s disappeared more and more in Antiqua in the 19th century.

    First attempts to change from Fraktur to Antiqua (Fraktur versus Antiqua conflict) are know after 1790. Unger tried to simplify Fraktur ("Erster Versuch", first try) and earned harsh critique. Breitkopf (creator of an improved Fraktur, and also typesetting of music notation in Italian style) blamed Unger in public via newspapers. Unger payed Didot to cut "Erster Versuch" in professional quality. No chance at the market.

    In the south (Bavaria and Austria) printed some books and later in the 19th century more in Antiqua, mainly for scientific publications. The south also had a more modern orthography than the Prussians. Bismarck, the chancellor of Prussia prohibited the use of Antiqua, because he "cannot read it". Hitler forbid Fraktur 1941 as "Jewish".

    Before 1900 Fraktur was stilled used for Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Sorbian, Latvian, Czech, and by German speaking populations in (now) Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia. For Polish or Hungarian I have no evidence that Fraktur was ever used. Germanic languages in the neighbourhood of Germany like Dutch, Flames (Belgium) and Luxembourgish maybe used it in early times.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 605
    edited February 1
    @Christian Thalmann To me this whole thing is mind-boggling as I keep going back and forth in my mind whenever I go back to read some of the sentences in this thread. And I think I'm not the only one, the rationale you gave would argue the opposite :sweat_smile:
    > voiced stops as «soft»
    > «soft» to mean «not loud»
    To me it would seem that voiced stops are called soft because they don't involve stopping your larynx from vibrating, just blend with the vowels. And voiceless stops, specifically in word onset, are aspirated (at least in English and German, afaik), so that makes them actually a bit louder (if you inspected the wavelength amplitude at least — that little extra puff of air is why you can sometimes see air shields in front of the microphone).
    Anyway, I'll be studying all of the 1200 dialects in the nearest future as German finally seems as phonetically interesting and diverse as English :D
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 594
    First, Gutenberg imitated the calligraphy of the monks. His bible should look like one of the very expensive handwritten copies.

    It's interesting to note that typefaces intended to be used for comic book word balloons have variant forms for letters to be alternated for exactly the same reason that Gutenberg did it: to give the impression of being hand-lettered, not printed.
  • > Blackletter and Fraktur …  this ugly and impractical typeface

    plain nonsense.
  • Adam Jagosz It will be hard to study the 1200 dialects. Only a few have a writing system or dictionaries. You can begin with the few having an own language code and a Wikipedia site. I can read them fluently, the Low German ones not so well. Yiddish only in Latin script (many Slavic and Hebrew words I need to look up).

    I don't even understand the dialects of my own country. I understand the urban versions of Styria, Carinthia, Upper-/Lower-Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, the ones in the south of Germany Upper-/Lower-Bavarian, Swabian, Fränkisch, Oberpfälzisch, Kölsch, Hessian, a little bit harder Dresden, Leipzig, Berlin. But when they e. g. in Alpine regions switch to the dialect of their valley I understand nothing. I also remember that I understood not everything spoken by the grandmother of my girlfriend 20 km east of my home, in the middle between Vienna and Bratislava. E. g. the name of the city Hainburg near the Slovakian border sounded like Hawurch and I needed translation. Or not so long ago I had to ask for the way 70 km west of Vienna at a lonesome farmhouse and I understood nothing. 

    Yes, in some way it compares to English. The difference is, that children in German areas have to learn Standard German in Kindergarten and School. In English areas they speak their dialect and only upperclass families learn good and neutral English. The average English in and near London, Surrey and Oxford needs time to understand, people from Wales speak extremely strange, Irish English is easier.

    Have fun exploring some German dialects:

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