[Crm-sig] NEW ISSUE: revise TX5 Reading versus TX6 Transcription

Martin Doerr martin at ics.forth.gr
Fri Oct 1 22:22:48 EEST 2021

Dear Achille, we widely agree, but, I simply meant more general, more 
fundamental principles.

On 10/1/2021 6:47 PM, Achille Felicetti wrote:
> Dear Martin,
> Please find our comments inline.
>> Very generally, in order to observe a sign as a sign, we need a 
>> context fitting to some hypotheses what people would put signs on, 
>> characteristics suggesting a feature as human made, but most 
>> importantly a finite selection of potential patterns. The latter 
>> condition is absolutely necessary. The result will be a ranked list 
>> of best fitting patterns.
> We agree that some characteristics of some signs (e.g. their shape, 
> the physical properties of how they are traced, etc.) can contribute 
> to the process of interpreting them as intentionally produced human 
> products.
> In principle, in fact, it is not the specific characteristics of the 
> signs but their properties of occurrence on a surface that 
> discriminate their interpretation as part of a (writing) system or 
> not: for example, the recognition of Linear B or the interpretation of 
> the signs of the Phaistos disc as “scripture” depend on the reciprocal 
> relationships that the elements have among themselves, which therefore 
> lead to the hypothesis of the existence of a system. It is a matter of 
> fact that, within a given system, /"tout se tient"/ as Saussure and 
> Chomsky underline.
Yes, of course, this is exactly what I meant below: "The arrangement of 
characters into texts are also standardized by a writing system".

Well, yes, I meant the above very generally. You may find mason marks 
somewhere on a block of stone, a single sign possibly, at no particular 
position, but you find on blocks of the same context, or a comparable 
context, similar isolated, deliberately applied scratches, people have 
learnt to recognize as being functional.
>> In short, I maintain that recognizing a text /can be prior to/ 
>> recognizing single signs.
> We fully agree also on this point.
>> I believe the definition of the "writing system" needs to 
>> differentiate the character set sufficiently from the other 
>> constituents of a writing system.
>> The arrangement of characters into texts are also standardized by a 
>> writing system. The arrangement rules of a writing system for signs 
>> in a text create also characteristic, recognizable patterns. There 
>> are enough archaeological cases, I assume, in which a text can be 
>> recognized as such without any readable character on it.
>> Hence, there are in addition observable arrangement features of a 
>> writing system.
>> Note that all results of observation in an encoded propositional form 
>> require that the observation itself applies hypotheses about the 
>> forms the feature to be observed can appear in.
> We don't entirely agree on the existence of a set of predefined 
> possibilities; rather, we would say that there is a number 
> of concomitant phenomena that makes interpretation of the world 
> possible, in this case, the activity of “writing". It is possible 
> to create infinite writing systems with infinite varieties in the 
> signs that compose it, because, indeed, what is important is that the 
> internal coherence of the system is preserved.
Of course, this is not what I said😁

We must VERY carefully distinguish, what we infer as rules from multiple 
observations. If we observe a bustrophedon writing, there is still a 
linearity in the characters and EVEN indication of direction. It is 
"character - space - character -space..., and spaces use to be similar, 
lines are horizontal. You will not write 1 2 3 4 5  6 in the order 2 1 4 
3 6 5. Why not? Could be cryptography. *How many* characters would you 
need in a linear sequence to understand that they have to be read in "2 
1 4 3...order? and yet, the arrangement cannot be random, but must 
follow a rule. The old art of cryptography tells us a lot about variants 
that make a text unrecognizable. If the character order is random but 
only known to one sender and receiver, we have already a big problem 
> If by "arrangement of characters into texts" you mean things like, for 
> instance, the “ductus”, i.e., the direction of the writing of the text 
> (from right to left, from left to right, etc.), this is actually not 
> a "rule" of the writing system as well, but just the application of a 
> possible model to a text. It is true that a writing system can have a 
> preferred ductus and that this can eventually lead to the 
> standardisation of a certain use, but this does not concern the system 
> itself: if I write in English from left to right (or in a specular 
> form, as Leonardo da Vinci used to do for Italian), the internal rules 
> of the system (differentiation of signs, combination of letters etc.) 
> remain unchanged. The reader is simply less used to a different use.
I don't mean ductus, or any specific kind of arrangement. I mean 
whatever the necessary arrangement rules are.
I think you miss the concept of sequence here, which is the basis of all 
arrangements. Language is linear - sequential, and writing will have a 
concept of corresponding linearity and regularity of distances between 
signs. It's a bit like rhythm in music.
> In fact, some writing systems do not have a preferential ductus (see 
> for instance Archaic Greek). Thus, a certain set of observable 
> disposition characteristics occur IN the text, not in the writing 
> system. This is a subtle but necessary semiological difference.
Sure, simply, the arrangement rules are of different nature. The concept 
of sequence cannot be abandoned. Otherwise, you have a pot of letters, 
and the reader should put them in an order to create the intended 
message. That would, obviously, not work for longer and not pre-agreed 
Whatever the nature of the necessary rules are, either they are a priori 
known, or can only be inferred from longer examples, and yet, inference 
will not work without a sequence hypothesis.

See also Korean script. It is not as linear as ours😁, but still a 
regular path, a bit convoluted.
>> A variant of the latter occurs when reading a sloppy hand-written 
>> text, e.g., when I read my grandpa's notebook. The character set can 
>> only be either Latin or Sütterlin. I can distinguish the latter by 
>> recognizing a few very characteristic signs in the overall text. 
>> Then, I need to identify more and more words in the text until I am 
>> trained to more and more of Grandpa's own variants of the Sütterlin 
>> character set. This depends on the size of the sample. Only then I 
>> can go back and recognize within the continuous lines single signs.
> As for the Sütterlin, again this phenomena does not refer to the 
> system but just to the shape of the signs, the way they are linked 
> together etc., and therefore it concerns their “style", not the 
> internal differentiability of the signs themselves. Within the Latin 
> script ecosystem, the Sütterlin has exactly the same stylistic 
> significance of the Caroline minuscule.
This is not correct. I can show you my Grandpa's notebook. It is real. 
Internal differentiability of the signs themselves is definitely not 
always given. I do not know a priori if he writes Latin or Sütterlin. He 
did both. The first thing I do, check until I recognize a distinct 
Sütterlin. But when he wrote Latin, he may throw in a Sütterlin some 
times. Sloppy ligature and shorthand does not always allow to 
differentiate the signs. I need many examples until I am familiar with 
recognizing small words as a whole characteristic for him individually, 
because the signs are fused.
> In summary: the possible styles that can be manifested in writing 
> are infinite, as long as the signs maintain a degree of internal 
> recognition (i.e., the “differential" value remains unchanged) and 
> remain recognisable by the reader. See the letter “T” example in the 
> attached image from Saussure’s “Course” (CLG, section 165) for more 
> details.
I actually do not agree. Infinite is a big word. Mathematically, with 
infinite arrangements and styles, you can interprete any text as being 
any other text.
Simply, we must be more clear what are the real features we rely on. I 
kindly invite you to do a reading exercise in my Grandpa's notebook😁.
Styles need to maintain a similarity with the standard shape. What 
deviations are tolerable to be recognized by human brain has some 
constraints. Currently, newer neural networks do a good job identifying 
the rules behind the human anticipation of symbol similarity.

I think the text below is a bit too simplistic. It refers to 
characteristics that are not relevant, but nevertheless to a "within 
certain limits". It does not distinguish the consistency between 
characters in the same text, in texts of the same writer, and between 
texts of of different writers. It does not say what the "certain limits" 
consist of. But this is what we need to understand. Isn't it?

All the best,

> We hope this helps :-)
> Regards,
> Francesca & Achille

  Dr. Martin Doerr
  Honorary Head of the
  Center for Cultural Informatics
  Information Systems Laboratory
  Institute of Computer Science
  Foundation for Research and Technology - Hellas (FORTH)
  N.Plastira 100, Vassilika Vouton,
  GR70013 Heraklion,Crete,Greece
  Email: martin at ics.forth.gr
  Web-site: http://www.ics.forth.gr/isl

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