Jot and Tittle

Bill Poser, in Two Dots Too Many (Language Log) discusses a murder (via knife, not gun) / suicide. He concludes with “There are several lessons to take away from this tragedy. One is that localization is a good thing. Another is that it is best not to kill people who make you angry until you have carefully investigated the situation, if then.”

Earlier he said

How exactly did this tragedy come about? Turkish has four high vowels, front unrounded /i/, written <i>, front rounded /y/, written <ü>, back unrounded /ɨ/, written <ı>, and back rounded /u/, written <u>. The verb form that Ramazan wrote was sıkışınca, which is a gerund of sıkışmak, literally “to get wedged, to get in a tight spot”, but here with the sense of “to be unable to answer an argument”. What his wife thought he wrote was sikişince, the corresponding form of sikişmek “to fuck”. The verb stems sıkış “to get wedged” and sikiş “to fuck” differ only in the backness of their vowels, which is reflected graphically in the presence or absence of a dot. The problem was that Emine’s cell phone was not localized properly for Turkish and did not have the letter <ı>; when it displayed Ramazan’s message, it replaced the <ı>s with <i>s.

Note: Hopefully, your browser and/or WordPress preserves the three different i’s (dotted, undotted, and barred) and the other special characters in the quote.

About hornlo

Geek. Curmudgeon
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