@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).Andreas Stötzner said:it's a long s - s ligaturejust for the record: it isn’t.I do not want to hijack this conversation with that matter.
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
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
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.
[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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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: