Sorting it all Out Michael Kaplan's random stuff of dubious value Be sure to read the disclaimer here first!
Collation fascinates me.
It has fascinated me for most of the last eight years, since the first time I saw Appendix D of the first edition of Developing International Software for Windows 95 and Window NT. Like most people, I knew that some languages had different letters but it had just never occurred to me that letters would ever be ordered differently.
What I find most fascinating is that by and large people understand the order well enough to make use of it to retrieve information or to recognize when it is out of order. Yet they usually cannot clearly articulate the rules even when they have a clear subconscious knowledge of it.
Like all good internationalization features, people really only notice them if they do not meet expectations. This is something else that I find fascinating because I have never felt like it was all about me, even if I am doing cool stuff. It is about the cool stuff.
There reason that languages have ordering is obvious -- people need to be able to find information. How else can they find words in a dictionary or names in a phone book, if there is not a deterministic ordering that they are expecting?
The principles used to create the orderings vary, depending on the language and to some extent the script. I will give some examples here....
Other languages simply stick additional letters at the end or next ones that look similar. They may use points of articulation, or phonemic values.
More often than not, people know neither the whys nor the wherefores. But they know the right order when they see it....
In future posts I'll look into some of the more interesting trends I have noticed in some of the languages of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.