Sunday, November 13, 2005

Unikey

I haven't posted much about keyboards lately so this seems like a good time. This is about the Unikey Vietnamese keyboard which has "all 3 popular input methods: TELEX, VNI and VIQR." (Screenshots)

Michael Farris has made this comment about it.

Not exactly your comment, [that's okay. Michael, this is a blog, remember] but for Vietnamese, I use a non-microsoft keyboard called unikey. It has several options, I use unicode precomposed characters and telex input, a vietnamese system that takes a little getting used to.

Here's a list of some words, with the input on the left, output in the middle and English gloss on the right.

vieejt Việt Vietnamese
nguwowfi người person
tooi tôi I
owr ở at
sawsp sắp imm. future marker
ddax đã past marker

the tone keys (f, s, r, x, j) can be typed either after the vowel or after all the segmental letters of the word have been typed. The latter method is probably better as it assigns the tone marker better in ambiguous cases (but I'm used to writing tone as I go along). It's much faster than when I inputted a 100 or so pages of dictionary entries using keyboard shortcuts of my own devising in a floating accent system that I hate with a passion now (can you say awkward and time consuming and frustrating?)

Thanks, Michael, for explaining this. It sounded a little odd at first but entirely suitable kinesthetically. There is a big difference between just finding all the accents in the first place, and then finding an input method that can be easily typed. I still find French awkward. Especially since I have switched keyboards a few times over the years.

Here is another comment on the Telex input method.

That is also the case in vietnamese "telex style" input. A very popular input method as it allows very fast typing. The vowels with a circumflex, as well as the D stroke, are written by redoubling the letter. Then, unused letters of the latin alphabet (j,x,...) are used to indicate the different accents. But those letters can be typed almost anywhere on the syllabe (vietnamese is written with syllabes separated by spaces). For example "Vietnam" in vietnamese is written with the "e" having acircumflex accent and a dot below the letter. With the telex input method: "Vieejt Nam" but also must be accepted"Vieetj Nam" (yes, the accent is always on the last vowel of a syllable with several vowels).

If you think about how the lettered keys will look as you type, this will throw you off. But think of what will display on the screen instead, as the accents are added either after the letter or after the syllable which they modify, up to you. More intuitive than dead keys and no long finger stretches to the top row.

However, the top row is way better than at the side on the quotation mark key. Some of us have very disobedient pinkies - they never do as they are told - better for drinking tea, really.

Another recommended Vietnamese keyboard is VPSKeys.

For Mark, look at this comment about using telex input for Pinyin. Have you ever seen that?

I'm off for a cup of tea. The power of suggestion!

Further from Michael Farris:

Unikey telex input is also forgiving in that you don't have to delete wrong accents. If I mistype owr as owf I just add the r after f (owfr) and it corrects the tone. And tone placement is a little tricky in words with, for example, the sequence -oa- as the tone mark goes on either the o or a depending on the final. Typing the tone right after the vowel is less accurate than typing the tone as the final element (which always places it correctly).

Also, of the fine "tone" letters, three are used in Vietnamese, r, x and s are all initial consonants (so their use after vowels is unambiguous).

5 Comments:

Blogger Michael Farris said...

I'm glad you found the information useful, but my name is spelled Farris.

Unikey telex input is also forgiving in that you don't have to delete wrong accents. If I mistype owr as owf I just add the r after f (owfr) and it corrects the tone.
And tone placement is a little tricky in words with, for example, the sequence -oa- as the tone mark goes on either the o or a depending on the final. Typing the tone right after the vowel is less accurate than typing the tone as the final element (which always places it correctly).

7:17 AM  
Blogger Michael Farris said...

Also, of the fine "tone" letters, three are used in Vietnamese, r, x and s are all initial consonants (so their use after vowels is unambiguous).

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Mark S. said...

~~~telex input for Pinyin~~~

Ackj! Ohx myg eyesf!

The sample starts out with what in Pinyin would be written "Riben Guoji Guangbo Diantai" ("Radio Japan"). Simple, easy. Tone indications are entirely unnecessary here for comprehension. This takes a total of 27 characters, including spaces.

By contrast, "telex pinyin" offers
"rif benw guos jif guangw box dianf tais," or, alternately, "rif bewn guos jif guawng box diafn tasi." These are 39 characters each and damn hard to read.

A useful reading related to this subject is Pinyin-to-Chinese Character Computer Conversion Systems and the Realization of Digraphia in China, by Yin Binyong of the Institute of Applied Linguistics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Look especially at Section 3.2, "What is an appropriate way to handle the representation of tones in a Pinyin-based writing system?" This piece was published in 1991, so it's from the telex era itself.

6:52 AM  
Blogger Michael Farris said...

"By contrast, "telex pinyin" offers
"rif benw guos jif guangw box dianf tais," or, alternately, "rif bewn guos jif guawng box diafn tasi." These are 39 characters each and damn hard to read."

That's the input, the output would be pinyin with tone marks and using letter keys. The conventions of telex are a little unusual at first, but far easier than anything else I've come across. To take an "easy" accent, with là (be), I find typing l+a+f is far easier than l+control-grave+a. Not to mention words I used to absolutely dread like được (passive marker) (ddwowcj) or người (person) (ngwowif) which are now as easy to type as English. Remember, that in using telex you only see the Vietnamese characters on the screen, the conversion is done in real time as you type, I'll only see a weird encoding like dwowis if I switch the keyboard to English and use telex input, normally I'd just see dưới (under).

There is a weakness in telex in terms of pinyin, namely that the unit of Vietnamese writing is the syllable and not the word whereas Pinyin is written in words. This can cause problems for telex in terms of interpreting certain key combinations.

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5:25 AM  

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