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[RFC] automatic apostrophes

From: Robert Millan
Subject: [RFC] automatic apostrophes
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2006 11:41:23 +0200
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.12-2006-07-14

[ Please keep me on CC, I'm not subscribed ]


There's a common limitation when localising programs for languages that use
apostrophes with nouns.  For example:

  printf (_("%s greets you!"), argv[1]);

  $ ./test Owen
  Owen greets you!
  $ ./test Joe
  Joe greets you!

When trying to localise this to Catalan, we face a problem.  Normaly, we would
say "n'Owen et saluda!" because Owen starts with vowel, but "en Joe et saluda!"
because Joe starts with consonant.  E.g:

  $ ./test Owen
  n'Owen et saluda!
  $ ./test Joe
  en Joe et saluda!

Unfortunately, when reading "%s greets you!", the translator can't tell wether
%s will be starting with vowel or not [1].  I think it would be necessary for
some mechanism to automaticaly convert "en Owen" to "n'Owen".  Then a translator
could just write "en %s" [2] and let gettext convert this accordingly.

I think I can write the apostrophing algorithm for Catalan.  Also, I'm not sure
which other languages are in a similar situation that could benefit from this
feature, but I suppose there are some (anyone can tell?).

So do you like the idea?

[1] actualy, the rules are a bit more complex than that, but to the effect of
    this mail it doesn't matter.

[2] my example implies gender assumption, but this is a completely different
    problem that should be fixed in the application itself, not gettext
    (similar to how singular/plural expressions are handled).

Robert Millan

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