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orthography

Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:43 pm
by tony h
I was reading a French joke :

Ne pas confondre:
- il confie ses enfants.
= il confit ses enfants.
L'orthographe sauve des vies.
Veillons.

Now my French isn't that great but I got the point straight away. And I thought how much more complete the point is by using "orthography" rather than simply "spelling". (Actually I am not clear whether the French use of orthography is simply spelling.)

But it set me thinking. We tend to comment on spelling, hand writing and grammar as though they were separate parts of a communication. It is as though we talk of "three lines, joined together" but never mention the triangle.


An orthography is a set of conventions for writing a language. It includes norms of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation.

Re: orthography

Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2018 4:48 pm
by Erik_Kowal
tony h wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 12:43 pm
We tend to comment on spelling, hand writing and grammar as though they were separate parts of a communication. It is as though we talk of "three lines, joined together" but never mention the triangle.
Isn't all of that covered by the term 'written communication' (or 'handwritten communication', if you're being precise)? Or if not, what am I missing?

Re: orthography

Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2018 10:50 pm
by Phil White
As far as I know, French, like German, uses orthographe simply to mean "spelling" in most cases, but, again in common with German, the word actually covers the same ground as the English "orthography", in particular punctuation, but also any printed or handwritten conventions that convey additional meaning, structure and nuance.

There are many distinctions in linguistics and in language teaching that have the unfortunate side effect of distracting from the coherence of language as a whole, the most egregious of which is the often spurious distinction between syntax and semantics. It is like any branch of knowledge. The more we understand and categorize the intricacies, the more we lose sight of the whole.