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Re: a few MULE criticisms

From: Hin-Tak Leung
Subject: Re: a few MULE criticisms
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 11:06:06 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.3) Gecko/20030312

Hin-Tak Leung wrote:
Kenichi Handa wrote:

When you type TAB while you are using an input method, Emacs
shows the full list.  But, the method used in cxterm is not
implemented, it's not easy.

I have figured that out. However a match by beginning and ending ("a*b")
or by ending ("*b") is quite important for Chinese inputs. TAB
(match by the beginning portion "a*") probably works alright
for Japanese, because a native Japanese speaker most probably
know how the character is pronounced (or at least know the
first one or two syllables of the phrase). But many of the
Chinese input methods (other than the Pinyi method,
"by pronounciation") function by character shapes, and the
distinctive/memorable part is often the right-hand side of
the character. In other words, the ending of the keystroke
sequence (or the 2nd half of the sequence), because the keystroke
sequence is usually coded according to how native writer
writes the different portion of a character (top-left,
bottom-left, top-right, bottom-right).

I would actually like to quantify this a bit further. In fact
matching by ending is the more useful alternative if
one has to choose the two alternatives of matching by either end.
In Japanese, most of the input methods maps by pronounciation.
This is possible and quite convenient, because Japanese
Kanji's are multiple-syllabic (2 or 3), so that's a few hundred
pronounciation combinations mapped to a few thousand characters,
and it is possible to choose among about < 10 variants
for the same 4-7 keystroke sequence in a pronounciation-based mapping.

One the other hand, all chinese characters are mono-syllabic;
the human tougue uses only about <100 such sounds
(consonant+vowel+consonant) - so for every pronounciation
it typically correspond to about >100 characters. Couple that
with region variations, dialects, (remember the size of china
stretches a similar distance as London/UK to Cairo/Egypt, or
New York to Mexico), almost no sane person types chinese
by pronounciation if he needs to type any sizable paragraphs,
unless he is truly desparate - because we are
talking about "input 3 keystrokes, scroll a list of 100 to pick a
character, input another 3 key strokes, scroll another list of 100
to pick another character, etc" to churn each character out.

The more prefered methods are either pronounciation+intonation
(which is probably "input 4 keystrokes, scroll a list of 20")
but it still suffers a lot by the dialect/regional problems, or by
shape ("input 4-5 keystrokes, scroll a list of 5") to be
able to access nearly 10,000 characters. There are a few methods
which matches by shape (i.e. how a character is written),
but as I explained, the right-hand-side of a chinese character
is usually the more distinct side but the right half is
usually written last; if one maps characters by how it is usually written,
it normally makes the 2nd half of the key-stroke sequence more
useful as a matching criterion, if one is not sure about the
precise sequence and needs to make a guess and ask the computer
for a (as short as possible) list of alternatives.

Also, it is not uncommon to switch between input methods frequently
to arrive at different characters, say 5-10 times within a medium-size
sentence. Binding the switch to function keys to enable fast-switching
is quite necessary to type at any reasonable speed. I know MULE can
be customized to behave differently, but input method switching
is burried down the 3rd or the 4th sub-menu's in X :-).
(And Japanese users probably don't switch input methods as
frequently as Chinese users would do...)

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