What I learned about languages just by looking at a Turkish typewriter

We’re not beholden to Q·W·E·R·T·Y

The Q·W·E·R·T·Y layout was infamously assembled together to disallow typewriters from jamming easily. Commonly used letters were spread around the keyboard not with ease of learning or ergonomics in mind, but to counteract the limitations of technology.

Scrabble tiles in English (above) and in Carrier language used in parts of British Columbia (below). Based on a photo by Leo Reynolds.

Accented characters aren’t always second-class citizens

For a small taste of Turkish, here’s that language’s most popular pangram:

Pijamalı hasta, yağız şoföre çabucak güvendi.

(Pangrams are short, surreal sentences that contain all the characters in a given alphabet. The above means “the patient in pajamas quickly trusted the swarthy driver.” The popular English equivalent is The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, containing all 26 English alphabet letters with little waste.)

Each language has a crazy secret

In English and many other languages, there’s an i that, when capitalized, becomes an I.

Some of those other languages need to be accommodated also

It’s always hard to be the underdog. English keyboard has to cater to English only, but other languages can’t ignore English or other locally popular languages exporting some of their words.

Punctuation is the first to go when sacrifices need to be made

The Turkish typewriter keyboard has the same dimensions as the English typewriter keyboard. There are no extra rows or columns of keys. So, given all the new characters, something will have to give. That something is, mostly, punctuation:



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