[scribus] Hyphenation

John Jason Jordan johnxj at comcast.net
Thu Oct 27 16:33:05 UTC 2011

On Thu, 27 Oct 2011 09:20:52 -0400
Gregory Pittman <gregp_ky at yahoo.com> dijo:

>In John's Scribus PDF (full width):
>... re-
>ceived ...	
>this is very ambiguous. In general, various short syllable breaks,
>like in-, de-, re- have so many possible endings. This can be the most 
>difficult to prevent.
>... pri-
>vate ...
>one might consider preventing hyphenation of 2-syllable words to avoid
>Finally, this one in TeX:
>... announc-
>ing ...
>I have to say, I think this one is quite a mistake. Who would
>hyphenate announcing at this point in the word? Note that Scribus has
>a better announ-cing.

I have enjoyed reading the thread on typographic rules. Allow me to add
a comment in a new thread specifically about hyphenation.

I agree with Gregory that hyphenation is not perfect in many programs.
And Gregory has an excellent point about short syllable breaks (e.g.
"re-ceived") being sometimes ambiguous, leading the reader to have to
pause or re-read a line to connect the first and last parts of the
hyphenated word. I'm not sure how a layout program can fix this,

The main point I want to make is that English orthography is
morphophonetic, not phonetic like the majority of languages. This means
that prefixes and suffixes have a spelling that may not be phonetic,
but is nevertheless fairly regular. As a result, we tend to split words
on the morpheme level rather than the phonological level.

One of the universals of human language is the "maximum onset
principle." This means that when we say a multisyllabic word we place
as many consonants at the beginning of a syllable as the phonotactic
rules of the language allow. Let me use the English word "distress" as
an example to illustrate this. English phonotactics allow up to three
consonants in the onset, although if there are three the first must be
s, the second a voiceless stop (p, t, k), and the third a liquid (r, l).
The sequence "str" meets these requirements, so when an English speaker
says the word "distress" the break will be di-stress. Yet the
dictionary says we are to hyphenate the word "dis-tress." 

Because English spelling is morphophonetic more than phonetic we have
developed a dictionary-based hyphenation system. The dictionary is
frequently arbitrary and always ignores the maximum onset principle,
yet it is how "correct" hyphenation is supposed to be done. That having
been said, I know that many (perhaps most) programs hyphenate English
using algorithms rather than the dictionary entry. This leads to
frequent hyphenation breaks that do not match the dictionary rules.
Yet algorithms work perfectly for most languages, because most languages
base their hyphenation strictly on the the phonology of the language
and not the morphology. 

I don't know how Scribus does its hyphenation. And if it does use an
algorithm, switching to dictionary-based hyphenation just for English
may be impractical. Nevertheless, I wanted to point out that
hyphenation is more problematic than just deciding whether to base it
on the entire paragraph or one line at a time.

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