JAPANESE BRAILLE.

A few years ago I did a post on Chinese braille; now Matt of No-sword has done a couple of posts about the Japanese versions (kana, kanji), and Joel of Far Outliers has responded with Braille Family Resemblances and Mutations:

All varieties of Braille render the characters of their respective languages in a six-dot matrix (or did until until recently); all are read from left to right, even in Hebrew; all use word-spacing, even in Chinese and Japanese; and all tend to place diacritic characters before the characters they modify.

Fascinating stuff.

Comments

  1. I don’t know about other Brailles, but I can say a few words about various flavours of Chinese brailles:
    1) Cantonese braille doesn’t use space for word division, rather it appears only when there is a null initial or the syllable is at the high level tone since tone indication is obligatory. Hence, reading Cantonese braille is not very different from reading Thai in print: as each syllable takes 3 cells, you read it continuously without word break. I also recalled that the capital symbol is used to signify English or other latin alphabets.
    In the code shown in Wikipedia, it is based on older Cantonese transliteration so a p is a [p] rather than a [pʰ] in Hanyu Pinyin and [pʰ] is derived from the symbol of p. However, it seems that Hadley’s information is in disagreement to the one in Wikipedia: Hadley’s code utilises braille b, d andg for [p], [t] and [k], and I can’t tell which is right or wrong unless I see Cantonese braille transcription which exists in my apartment’s lift back in Hong Kong.
    However, some Cantonese braille codepoints may have been done a triple job: depending to its position in the syllable representation, a cantonese braille cell can be representing an initial, a final or a tone!
    2) Chinese Mandarin braille also comes in two flavours just like Chinese characters comes in two flavour in the Chinese region: Zhuyin-based braille used in Taiwan and Hanyu Pinyin-based braille used in Mainland China.
    Hanyu Pinyin-based braille merges g/j, k/q, h/x as they are in complementary distribution. Initials and Finals don’t share codepoints unlike Cantonese braille, and the syllables are not in fixed width: the shortest syllable can be in one cell (silibant syllables or null-initial syllables in first or light tone) and the longest in three (with tone indication). All punctuations except ecplisis uses two cells (by shifting the original representation in ordinary braille by one column).
    Zhuyin-based braille is slightly different: the codepoints are distributed differently, sometimes with bewilderment if you know only English Braille. For example instead of merging k and q into one codepoint, q and c are merged, and instead of merging h and x, x and s are merged. All “empty rhymes” have to be indicated by a cell that is the same as “er”, and all tones are indicated not matter what: even light tone is indicated, not like Hanyu Pin.
    3) Two-cell Chinese Braille invented in the 1970s is great stuff: it’s concise and it’s uniform as each syllable takes two cells: initial and medial are encoded in the first cell, final and tones are encoded in the second cell. More important, because of this conciseness, it also allow word-defining codes: they are not meant to be pronounced but they would indicate which word it is, more like the way one might disambiguating the syllable [ɹaɪt] on a phone: write (as in writing) vs right (as in opposite to left). The words in the brackets defines the word. With a rather high homophony like in Chinese, word-defining codes are great literate aid for the Blind. It also introduces braille users to Classical Chinese literature which uses many obscure characters or monosyllabic words. Word-defining codes are not well-used in the common Chinese braille because it adds even more bulk to the already bulky code.
    (This is an editied version of the comment posted in Far Outlier’s post on Braille.)

  2. This is the description of two-cell Chinese braille, sorry that it’s in Chinese. I might translate it into English if I’ve time.
    Also, this is the Wikipedia link for the Hanyu Pinyin-based braille (the above one is wrongly-encoded).

  3. It seems that Wiki links are being stripped so I give the text one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_braille

  4. David Marjanović says:

    For example instead of merging k and q into one codepoint, q and c are merged, and instead of merging h and x, x and s are merged.

    That’s because these are also in complementary distribution. Muahah. Standard Mandarin has an “allophonic Möbius loop”.

    and all tones are indicated not matter what: even light tone is indicated, not like Hanyu Pin.

    In print, Pinyin indicates 1st through 4th tone and leaves the light tone unmarked; Zhuyin indicates 2nd through fourth and light tone and leaves the first one unmarked.

    More important, because of this conciseness, it also allow word-defining codes:

    Determinatives like in cuneiform. Wow. Awesome. 😮

  5. Gosh, there were quite a few mistakes even in my editied version, it isn’t funny.
    In Common Chinese Braille as used in Mainland China, the 1st tone could also be indicated at (1), as well as the 2nd (2), the 3rd (3) and the 4th (23). In fact, just like in print, only neutral tone has not been allocated a codepoint. In reality though, because tone codes are so small, and bulk up the text by 50% if every syllables indicates tone, only about 5% of the syllables have their tones indicated.
    However, there is no prescribed norm as to which words should have their syllables indicated: it is at writer’s discretion. Since Chinese Braille utilises space like Pinyin, most phrasal words would have a rather unique spelling irrepective to tonal indications. Otherwise it could be inferred from the context, just like how Japanese distinguish between various totally homophonic Kanji borrowings…

    More important, because of this conciseness, it also allow word-defining codes: [sic]
    Determinatives like in cuneiform. Wow. Awesome. 😮

    The word-defining codes are precisely that: starts off with an indication symbol then annotating that word by putting it into a phrase or providing mean of the word. As such, calling it determinatives seemed to overly formalise such usage. 🙂 However, the function does serve as a distinguisher of words.
    Here is an example:
    You know the infamous third person singular 他 that has been distinguished graphemically into 他、她、它? Well, the inventor decided to give slight variations into their braille spelling such that they could be distinguished. Whereas 他 uses the typical encoding (234,2345), but 她 uses (4,234,2356) and 它 uses (5,234,2356).
    Of course, the above isn’t the typical determinative usage, but you can see that the designer has put some heart into it. As for the other well use particle de, similar measures allow to show the de‘s semantic function.

  6. Wow, that is very interesting–deep stuff, for sure.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    I see, thanks.

Speak Your Mind

*