᚛ᚈᚑᚋ ᚄᚉᚑᚈᚈ᚜ and ᚛ᚑᚌᚐᚋ᚜

This is an Ogham stone, or “ogg-em” stone, depending on
whose pronunciation you follow. The carvings on here are from an alphabet
unlike anything else in the world, an alphabet that is literally
an exception to modern rules. I’m not talking about the Roman letters
on the face: I’m talking about the markings
carved into the corner. Those markings are in Ogham — it’s a way
of writing down the early Irish language with marks like these. There are only about 400 surviving stones
like this, found in Ireland and
the western parts of the UK. This particular one is about 1500 years old, and it comes from Devon
in the south west of England. It’s on display here at the British Museum. The inscription is a name. Ogham stones
are mostly used to record names, either as a tombstone or
as a marker of land ownership. You read this along the stemline,
along the corner. Each character is made of one to five markings,
which will all be on one side of the line, the other side of the line,
through the line, or on the line. When modern scholars started to analyse this
script, they wanted to write it down on paper, and they adapted it a little
to make it easier for them: they changed it so it always went left to right, and each phrase was drawn on
a horizontal line so you could easily tell which marks were on which side. Some Ogham inscriptions, on later stones or
on other artefacts, do actually carve their own stemline into a flat surface, so adding
that line in print wasn’t too much of a stretch. And after all, trying to fold a bit of paper
and sketch markings on the corner wouldn’t be easy to work with
for academic papers. And that left us, years later,
with an interesting technology problem. When it came time to encode Ogham characters
as 1s and 0s, to fold them into Unicode, the international standard for
how to display text on a computer: Ogham became the only language in Unicode
where a space is not a space. A space character, to a computer, has three
properties: it has a certain width, you don’t display or print anything in that width, and if your text has run out of room on a line, you can go back to the previous space character
and replace it with a line break. Now, there have been well-understood variations
on those for years. Two of those rules are flouted
all the time. You can have a non-breaking space, like the one
between a word and a French quotation mark. That space has width, it has nothing displayed
in it, but you can’t put a line break there. The word and punctuation must travel together. You can also have a zero-width space, which
sounds like a ridiculous idea, but it’s a good way to tell a computer that,
if there isn’t room, it’s OK to break a long string of characters
somewhere that it otherwise wouldn’t. These are all commonly used. But until Ogham was added to Unicode, the
rule that a space character must be empty had never been broken.
Why would it? It’s a space. Well, an Ogham space includes that stemline. The line doesn’t stop between words, because
the corner doesn’t stop between words. The space is not a space…
but it behaves like one. It can be replaced with a line break. If you spread an Ogham inscription
over two lines, the space character vanishes,
same as in English. Now, Ogham isn’t the only language that uses
a separator like this. Ancient Latin used an interpunct,
a middle dot, the same way. But in modern usage that is not a space,
and modern usage wins. Ogham is the only case where
modern folks have gone, yeah, okay, it’s a space that also
involves drawing something. It’s a space that isn’t a space. There’s been an actual argument about it, down in one of the mailing lists for
linguists and computer science nerds at the Unicode Consortium. The Irish contingent had some
very strong opinions. And the final ruling: yep. It’s a space that’s also a line. This is one of the things I love about linguistics:
an ancient script, carved into stones more than
a millennium ago, is an exception to a rule that
I never even realised was there. A space doesn’t have to be a space.

100 thoughts on “᚛ᚈᚑᚋ ᚄᚉᚑᚈᚈ᚜ and ᚛ᚑᚌᚐᚋ᚜

  1. An alternate title for this video was "The Space That Isn't A Space", but that's a bit more difficult to translate into Ogham. Thanks again to all the team at the British Museum!

  2. ᚄᚑ ᚈᚆᚑᚒ ᚉᚐᚅᚄᚈ ᚏᚓᚐᚇ ᚈᚆᚔᚄ ᚕᚓᚂᚂ ᚇᚑᚅᚓ

  3. Who invented the 'space' in writing?


    [ ]However, spacing was then reinvented into language through Irish and Anglo-Saxon scribes, and then with the creation of the Carolingian minuscule by Alcuin of York, where it originated and then spread to the rest of world, including modern Arabic and Hebrew. Indeed, the actions of these Irish and Anglo-Saxon scribes marked the dramatic shift for reading between antiquity and the modern period. Spacing would become standard in Renaissance Italy and France, and then Byzantium by the end of the 16th century; then entering into the Slavic languages in Cyrillic in the 17th century, and only in modern times entering modern Sanskrit.[2] Traditionally, all CJK languages have no spaces: modern Chinese and Japanese (except when written with few or no kanji) do not; on the other hand, modern Korean uses spaces.

  4. Couldn't you remove the line altogether, it seems arbitrary to keep the line if you can tell up, middle and bottom apart..

  5. A buddy of mine would make motions of smoking a spliff while looking at this! An odd video, about an odd concept.

  6. 03:25 "An exception to a rule I did not even realise was there"

    Sometimes rules are defined (at least in part) by their exceptions. Because even if all you have is the exception, that exception could not exist if there is no rule to except from. So you can — in theory — define a rule by its exceptions alone.

  7. interpunkt… cool now i know what to call the space i my own invented runic language.
    Also mine has a option of doing them along a line or as regular characters… or to mach them all together into word glyphs that kinda look like Kanji

    (basically i designed it so i could use the same writing system to get styles similar to latin, runic, arabian or chinese type characters with the same alphabet just by changing how it's writen out a bit)

    Cool to actually know what my space dot is called… though technically i often break the line rather then have a blank line… then again i never wrote mine on the edge of something so i never needed to annotate spaces like that.

  8. ⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽⮽

  9. If only the old Irish farmers knew how much trouble they were making for computer scientists 1500 years in the future.

    Makes you wonder what stuff we do now that's going to be a mess to sort out in 1500 years.


  11. Why would a sub-Roman Irish rock carver care about computer-science rules? … he'd have started with a bigger rock … do we have any examples of this in the 400 or so lithics available to us right now? … if not, then we never realized it existed because it doesn't exist, not in Ogham … this isn't about linguistics, it's about convenience …

  12. Wouldn't it be basically the same thing as an underline? In normal underlined or strikeout text, the underline continues through spaces and across line breaks, not behaving as a character. I'd think the stemline, which itself isn't a character, could behave similar.

  13. I have recently discovered your channel and I love it! I've been trying to stop myself from ploughing through all of your videos too quickly, so I don't run out. Thank you!

  14. What's missing from this picture becomes a whole lot more compelling, when you realize it can substitute for anything it contains. Even our modern digital computers, would never work if it were not for engineers carefully accounting for how the holes the electrons occupy moving around on their own, without the electrons.

  15. All right irish, time to use ogham as your new writing system. No, seriously, ogham is so underappreciated compared to norse runes. Honestly, i use ogham if i want to write down something while copying in my exam.

  16. I thought the title of the video was an esoteric programming language called Brainf*ck. If you’re relatively code savvy and want a chuckle, give it a google.

  17. Me: Let me use Google Translate to know what ᚛ᚈᚑᚋ ᚄᚉᚑᚈᚈ᚜ and ᚛ᚑᚌᚐᚋ᚜ means.
    Google Translate: Hell no.

  18. No fuckin way. I accidently reinvented this when I was younger, or rather something that was structured similarly. Mine was like the adapted version, and was set up horizontally. I had wanted to use it to write secret messages to my friends but was so busy coming up with new alphabets that I never made any.

  19. So, since Ogham is a script, a set of characters for writing rather than a language,
    Is there somewhere we can easily get an Ogham font for common use on computers?

  20. You can use the ogham alphabet for divination, just write those symbols on popcycle sticks and toss em on the ground, The answer is in the sticks.

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