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This is Braille in grade 2, baby - The online computery journal thingy of a turtle

Sep. 14th, 2007

04:54 pm - This is Braille in grade 2, baby

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Sometimes on the net I find cartoons that make reference to Braille. And sometimes it's obvious that whoever did the cartoon went and looked up the Braille alphabet, intending to use it properly as opposed to just scattering a bunch of random dots. Here's a good example.

However, in most cases, as in the above example, what they end up using is grade 1 Braille, which is just the alphabet, with all words spelled out.

What they haven't heard of is grade 2 Braille. Grade 2 Braille contains a system of contractions and abbreviations for saving space when writing certain common digraphs such as "sh" and "ed", and certain common words such as "the" and "and".

So I decided to whip up a handy chart:


Chart of the most commonly used elements of grade 2 Braille

There was a recent XKCD strip that used Braille with one grade 2 contraction (ED), but the artist apparently missed two other contractions he could have also used: GH, and P for "people". D'oh.

To learn more about Braille, I recommend http://www.brl.org/ebae/index.html .

Current Mood: calmcalm
Current Music: Barenaked Ladies - Grade 9

Comments:

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From:wbwolf
Date:September 14th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
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I didn't know about the use of signs for diphthongs and abbreviations, so it always confused me when I tried to decipher braille on signs how it seemed like the braille and the sighted text didn't match. Now I know why!
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:September 15th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
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Not being a language geek (unlike some people I know - jdm314!) I'm unsure what a dipthong was. I always thought "ng" was one, for example. Even if it isn't, "ing" really should be, considering its preponderance in the language.

Why was W moved out of the other letters? Just because its approval rating is dropping doesn't mean ...
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:September 15th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
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Yes, 'ng' is a diphthong, as are 'ch', 'gh', 'sh', 'th', and 'wh'.

In fact, there is a sign for "ing", but I left it out for simplicity's sake. It's one of a number of Braille contractions that are position-dependent. For instance, "ing" cannot be used at the beginning of a word, so if you want to type "Inglenook", you can use the IN contraction, but not the ING contraction. (Also, you can't use the EN contraction because E and N belong to different syllables.)

Oh, and I was going to put a comment in the image about why W is out of sequence, but I forgot to. Louis Braille was French, and French doesn't use W very often.
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:September 15th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)
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I remember when taking French in school (it's the law in Canada, if you don't know any French, you are fined quatre-vingt cinq toonies and sentenced to 3 months without any croissants) that "K" is a letter in scarce supply as well. I remember looking in my French-English dictionary (probably still here, there are a few F-E dictionaries here of both my wife's and mine, and several look old enough to have been around when I was in school) that I was very surprised at how few words began with "K" in French, and most of those were loan words from English (or some other languages.)
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:September 15th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
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Yeah, that's the thing that confuses me. K is as rare in French as W is. So why did Louis Braille put K in its rightful place while snubbing W? Maybe it was a Biblical thing; there are elements in the Braille system that are obviously there to help with writing the Bible and other church materials, such as the addition of words like "lord" and "rejoice" to the list of abbreviable words. Maybe K is more important than W for this (such as writing Greek or Hebrew names). Or, it was a long time ago; maybe Louis just thought the whole sticking-two-Vs-together-to-make-a-W thing was just a passing fad. I'unno.
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From:varro
Date:September 15th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)
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It looks like Braille invented the six raised dots system, but it wasn't widespread until the English started publishing books for the blind after his death.
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From:deckardcanine
Date:September 15th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I believe that W is slightly less common than K in French, much as in Spanish. A survey found that French speakers deemed W their least favorite letter but denied that it had to do with rarity. (I think this was before 2000, so Dubya wasn't a factor.)
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From:thecanuckguy
Date:September 15th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)
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Hmmm, interesting, when I was a kid, my favourite letter was Q, followed by Z. It probably had everything to do with rarity, and my being a class 1 geek back then. :)
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From:orv
Date:September 15th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
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One of the roots in the word "dipthong" is "di", which means two. So I'm guessing that's why "ing" doesn't count, whereas "ng" does. (Would that make "ing" a tripthong? It's a combination of the short-i vowel sound and the "ng" dipthong.)
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:September 15th, 2007 07:56 am (UTC)

Finally checked Wikipedia

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Oh, wait, no, those are digraphs, not diphthongs. A digraph is a two-letter combination. A diphthong is a vowel made up of two sounds, like long I (which glides smoothly from an "ah" sound to an "ee" sound).

Forget diphthongs. Never mind diphthongs. The concept doesn't apply here. CH, GH, SH, TH and WH are digraphs. NG is a digraph. ING is a trigraph. There's no contraction for NG, but there is a one-cell contraction for ING and a two-cell contraction for ONG, which I've left out for simplicity's sake. I oughta make another chart.
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From:deckardcanine
Date:September 15th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Finally checked Wikipedia

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Another thing my elementary school got wrong, apparently.
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From:jdm314
Date:September 19th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)

Re: Finally checked Wikipedia

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The definition of "diphthong" varies, and by some definitions ch gh and so on would count. But the best nitpicking definitions would have diphthong refer only to double-vowel combination sound. I seem to recall that in actual Greek diphthong refered to any single letter that produced a compound sound, though.
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:September 19th, 2007 03:48 am (UTC)

Re: Finally checked Wikipedia

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And some of those digraphs aren't diphthongs anyway, like SH and TH.

I mean, unless you pronounce them like [S_wS_j] or [T_AT_q] or something. :}
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From:orv
Date:September 14th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
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This reminded me of Morse Code, which has a whole series of commonly-accepted abbreviations, such as 'ES' for 'AND'. (It doesn't seem that much shorter until you look at how long each character takes to send. E and S are very quick, being all dots.) Some of the abbreviations are numeric, like "73" for "best regards", and these come directly from the Western Union telegraph code. Because wire time was valuable, telegraph lines being low-bandwidth, Western Union had a whole list of common phrases that could be replaced by numbers. This is also the origin of the old journalism convention of marking the end of a news story with "-30-" -- "30" was the Western Union code for "End" or "Finish."

I suppose the odd abbreviations used in SMS these days could be considered just another form of the same thing -- an ad-hoc code developed by users of a low-bandwidth medium. :>
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From:kinkyturtle
Date:September 14th, 2007 10:54 pm (UTC)
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Yup, Braille has a similar problem: all Braille signs take up the same space no matter how many dots they use, and that space must be the size of a fingertip. Also, the pages of a Braille book must be loosely packed so that the bumps don't flatten out over time. My high school library had a Braille edition of the dictionary, and it was comprised of several thick binders taking up an entire shelf. Space is at a premium!
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