Ask an armchair linguist a question, the answer may not be accurate. But it will at least be astute...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2013/04/09 07:01 -04:00, original URI:


One of the tags I use on some of the blogs in this Sorting it all Out Blog is


Like all armchair linguists, I have no problem saying something is linguistic, without trying to formally define what I mean when I use the term.

It's like porn, in a way. I know it when I see it. You know?

Today's blog has some linguistic intent.

Some linguistic aspirations.

It started, as these sorts of things often do, with a question.

A question from someone who was trying to use our NLS feature but finding the results less than what he had been hoping for....

We are using Arabic. The translation for days of the week in placeholder %1 in "Every %1 effective %4 at %6" are coming from an external source (NLS).

However, the external translations contain a definite article which should not be used when the day of the week is following the adverb "every". If the current translations listed below are used, the meaning of the sentence changes from "every Friday/Monday etc." to "all day Friday/Monday etc.).

 That would be not just a linguistic issue but a pretty Linguistic issue, if you catch my drift.

They went on to provide some suggested changes:


Day Current name Suggested change
Sunday الأحد أحد 
Monday  الاثنين اثنين 
Tuesday  الثلاثاء ثلاثاء 
Wednesday الأربعاء  أربعاء 
Thursday الخميس  خميس 
Friday الجمعة  جمعة 
Saturday  السبت سبت 

 Now if you know nothing about Arabic than a lot of this is just beyond your ken. And your Barbie too, for that matter.

I will save some time and simply concede the point. Our words that we are using for day names do indeed contain the connotations they have been charged with.

So, should we make the suggested change, in that case?



The right hand column does represent a change, to be sure.

Perhaps more of a change than they intended?

It seems like they unintentionally, in the process of stripping out that implied "every", have perhaps succeeded in doing something that no one else has ever accomplished.

They have provided seven day names that might fit right into the LOCALE_SABBREVDAYNAME* slots!

I mean, they weren't exactly suggested to us as abbreviations, but they are shorter!

Perhaps their destiny is to be the abbreviated day names.

Any Arabic speakers want to give some input on this, for a future version of Windows and the .NET Framework?

cheong00 on 10 Apr 2013 12:36 AM:

Oh no, a NSFW "P" word.

Hope noone got caught by coporate web filters. :P

Mike Dimmick on 10 Apr 2013 6:24 AM:

I don't speak or read Arabic either, but I suspect this is actually a *grammatical* issue. In most places that a day name is used (for example, displaying the current date on the lock screen), the current setting implies that a literal translation would be, e.g. "The Wednesday, 10 April 2013". What they're saying is that in Arabic grammar, 'Every the Wednesday' doesn't make sense. However, that definite article seems to be embedded in the word.

You absolutely should not use these as the abbreviated day names, because then anything that in English reads 'Wed 10 April' would omit the definite article (the "the"), when it should not be omitted.

It would probably be more correct to change the LOCALE_SDAYNAME* values, except that then *everyone* would have to change their format strings to include the definite article. So this feels like a problem you can't actually do anything about.

Alex Cohn on 10 Apr 2013 12:36 PM:

These names are only good in certain scenarios, one cannot expect the OS (or a framework) to resolve all their localization issues. Imagine for example the same setup for Russian. Some DoWs are masculine, some - feminine, and Sunday is neuter. Thus you must print "каждую пятницу" vs. "каждый вторник". And we have not touched yet nominative vs. genitive!

John Cowan on 12 Apr 2013 9:55 AM:

Indeed even in English you can't expect a l10n framework to deal with the difference between "one foot" and "two feet".

Alex Cohn on 18 Apr 2013 12:11 AM:

@John: I believe that singular vs. plural may be plausible, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Here is a list in English and Russian:

 1 year  год

 2 years года

 3 years года

 4 years года

 5 years лет


19 years лет

20 years лет

21 years год

22 years года

23 years года

24 years года

25 years лет


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