Does German Need a New Letter?

Although the eszet is regarded by Germans as a letter, and not a ligature, its form had its origin in a ligature of long s followed by short s which fundamentally resembled the fi and fl ligatures used in English-language typography.
Some orthographies for the German language now allow the sequence sss in German texts.
Well, in English-language typography, the fi and fl ligatures are accompanied by ffi and ffl, and so it would be easy and obvious to design what I might call a "double eszet", starting from a ligature of two long s letters followed by one short s, and then modifying the form to correspond to what the eszet looks like today.
Now this might be as outrageously stupid as some other things I've previously said on this subject... for the primary reason that, while sss can now occur, those three letters s in a row aren't unified, but are happening through two separate syllables following each other, so that unifying all three of those letters into a double eszet would be a very incorrect spelling, as it would mislead people about where the syllables are divided and how the word is to be pronounced and so on.


  • No.
  • Your topic title is “does German need a new letter?”

    But your text is about a new ligature, similar to ffi and ffl. That would be a new and optional glyph, which is an entirely different thing. 

    You say that the input for the ligature is “sss”. I would think that “sss” should always look different from “ßs” or “sß”—if the ligature for “sss” looks much like one of the other two, that seems like a mistake. You talk about taking the “sss” sequence and giving long-s appearances to some of the s’s. That seems very odd to me.

    And also, seeing as it is a ligature… should this ligature be on by default ('liga') or only when actively turned on by an end user ('dlig')?

    It might depend partly on the degree of normality of the ligature. What you describe, if I am understanding correctly, seems noticeably odd/unorthodox, so I would go with a discretionary ligature—that is, one that is not on by default.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,970
    People still argue about whether or not ẞ is a good idea. Let’s not make matters worse.
  • In German, you can’t even use the ffi ligatures for the reason you mentioned yourself. So there is no way to use a tripple s ligature as there is no single word that has three s. It can only happen in compound words. And it is not allowed to set ligatures over word boundaries. 
    i am new to create OpenType features. i did create the ffi and ffl (and fi, fl, ff) ligatures in my font. But i did not think of how those ligatures are used. Is there a recommended process, which ones should be liga (standard), which ones should be dlig (discretional)? should those ligatures be sorted with local language (which ones would be affected?), using "locl"? the autogenerated code in my font file simply puts all ligatures into "liga", towards the end of the features-list. i hope you don't mind me asking this in this thread.
  • Everything old is new again.
  • Peter BakerPeter Baker Posts: 180
    edited February 22
    Could German use an ffi ligature in words like Offizier, effizient, Koeffizient, muffig, stoffig? (But I can't imagine sss coming anywhere but at a boundary between compound elements.)
  • Hi Donat,
    You should start another topic with this problem.
    In order to help you, it should be interesting to know which software you use to create your fonts?
    Fontlab, Glyphs, Font Creator, etc. have excellent help and tutorials to achieve this.
  • @Yves Michel
    hey Yves, thank you for answering. i am indeed looking (and finding) all over the place for info. as a beginner, i sometimes don't know what exactly i am looking for before i found it :)  
    i understood my concern (whether ligatures are language-specific) as part of this topic. sorry for that. i will try first to make my few ligatures/alternatives work at all, maybe localising later if this is the standard procedure. i work with fontlab btw; i haven't worked with other font editors not to confuse me more at this stage. 
  • The reason that a ligature for ‘sss’ would be wrong in German is linguistic. When such sequence occurs, you have not a normal word, but a composite. For instance: ‘Fassstall’ is composed of ‘Fass’ + ‘Stall’. Moreover, now German orthography regulates when to use ‘ss’ and when ‘ß’. So, one cannot randomly change ‘ss’ to ‘ß’ (unless the purpose is to deliberately ignore orthography).  
  • Swiss German doesn't use ß, so perhaps there's an sss word in Swiss German somewhere, but this feels like a solution in search of a problem.
  • Marvin J. Wendt's German wordlist has 1699 entries containing the sequence 'sss' and 1729 with the sequence 'ßs'. Predictably, none with the sequence 'sß'.
  • Swiss German doesn't use ß, so perhaps there's an sss word in Swiss German somewhere, but this feels like a solution in search of a problem.
    Sure, Massstab and the like. But then there's also Schifffahrt and Schwimmmontur and Fetttiegel and countless others that work outside of Switzerland. In the olden times, you were supposed to write Schiffahrt, but that nonsense has been abolished even in Germany.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,398
    I wonder if a comprehensive adoption of camelCase for German compound words has ever been brought to the Council for German Orthography. 
  • UnSinn!
  • O_o
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 689
    @Christian Thalmann if Shiffahrt is nonsense (which I am not disputing), what would you say about some of these examples from British English?


    And my pet peeve, though not exclusive to Britain: skipping the "s" in the possessive (Chris’ corner)?
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,654
    Here's an English word that "should" have three l's in a row, but only has two:

       fully (full + ly)

    There are probably others. So I guess English does this.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,973
    edited March 22
    skipping the "s" in the possessive
    Oh, I vastly prefer that style to e.g. Ross’s typefaces. I remember when I first encountered it as a recommendation in Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and have considered it the more elegant solution ever since. I think use of this written and typgraphic convention has even slightly affected my pronunciation over time, softening the –es at the end of such possesives.

  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,398
    Here's an English word that "should" have three l's in a row, but only has two:

       fully (full + ly)

    There are probably others. So I guess English does this.
    Seems like English usually either drops the extra letter (no fullly, seeer) or puts in a hyphen (no goddessship, skulllike). 

    Hmmm, soporifically boring in my opinion. Zzz. 
  • Russell McGormanRussell McGorman Posts: 261
    edited April 5

    Hmmm, soporifically boring in my opinion. Zzz. 
    "Zzz". Another one. 

    Languages evolve towards the practical. (If that's a theory it's probably wrong)... But I can, without much reflection, see why there are no triple ells and esses. Or zeds... Not on topic, but English once had a grammatical system of gendered nouns. Just like other languages. Then the Vikings (... famously lazy language learners) came and killed them all. 

    But, back to the present topic: I can picture the punch cutters back when standardized spelling was becoming a thing in the industry, upon hearing the proposal to correct the oversight of a lack of triple ell and ess ligatures muttering "Uh... I don't think so." And scribes in their time: "Oh my dear God! I thinkest not, Satan."
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