In English, casing is most definitely a challenge. In the sentence below casing is the only key to disambiguate meaning – correct use of casing, of course.Representatives from the New Mexican government disagreed with the position of the new Mexican government regarding border crossings.
This sentence is perfectly plausible given their physical contiguity and political convergence. And be assured, the seemingly capricious or mercurial nature of English is steeped in semantics; meaning is essential to mastering and communicating accurately in English – dare I say, any language.
Correct use of prosodic elements (sentence intonation and stress) usually solves misinterpretation in speech since the speaker would (or should at least) stress the first syllable in new Mexican but the second in New Mexican. Casing is one way to indicate this difference when we write.
If the Mexican case were a one-off, it could be handled quite easily. However, there is a plethora of “New”s in English … a short list includes New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New England, New France, New Spain, New Caledonia, New Orleans, New Zealand, New Delhi, New Age, New World and the list goes on and on.
When the two (New Mexico and new Mexico) occur together in a sentence or article, it is rarely problematic; the writer is conscious of the difference and hence more observant. However, confusion can arise when they appear individually. So what is the problem? Basically were we (or you) to include only New Mexican in your Tansa dictionary and add an algorithm, then new Mexican, with its one-character difference, would be corrected to New Mexican.
The solution then when you make additions to your Auxiliary Dictionary (AD), and how we have to handle them in the Primary Dictionary (PD), is to NOT attach an algorithmic correction to an entry like New Mexican.
That’s a brief look at casing for now … which seems more like a stroll through the garden compared to apostrophes – and the ultimate mind-boggler – the hyphen. Just to tantalize a bit, a mere mention – there’s read-option and re-adoption, and the Phillips screwdriver but Phillip’s screwdriver (which means we could also talk about Phillip’s Phillips screwdriver) … but let’s return to those topics later in future blogs. I think we can say with great certainty that we are not at a loss for topics about the pitfalls, the anomalies of language, especially English.
To read this article in Spanish, click here.