In Wikipedia, the letter Ng is listed as one of the 28 letters of the Filipino alphabet. However, when I click on the link to go to Ng's page, I get to a list of digraphs. I'm not a linguist, but as far as I know a digraph is a sequence of two letters whose pronunciation is different from the 'regular' sound of the sequence of the two, e.g sh in English or sch in German.

So what is the difference between Ng as a letter or a digraph in this regard? I'm trying to find Ng's Unicode number, but to no avail. Aren't letters (as opposed to, perhaps, digraphs) expected to have a Unicode number? Especially letters from languages as widely spoken as Filipino/Tagalog.

  • Note that there's also no Unicode character for sh, for th... or for ng in English (also used to spell a unique sound)! I suspect -- but am not familiar enough with Filipino to make this an answer -- that "letter" is just being used loosely in the article. It would be interesting to see if official documents referred to that digraph as a "letter". (But either way I don't think Unicode would have a separate entity for things possible to type separately, whose ligatures can be defined by the font if needed.) Feb 12 '19 at 12:56

Part of this is more a technological than linguistic question. My understanding is that in general, Unicode doesn't have numbers for letters that are composed of characters used for other letters. A special case is IJ, for Dutch, but according to Wikipedia even that is only present as a legacy encoding. W also has its own number, probably because of the influence of English and German speakers.

Many other languages treat these kinds of things as "letters" for the purposes of the alphabet: e.g. the Hungarian alphabet has letters like cs, sz, zs, ty, gy, ny, ly. Whether something is called a "letter" or a "digraph" is not really a technical classification as much as it is a cultural one.

  • Well, quite 'early' in Unicode, in "Latin Extended-B", there are specific entries for lj, nj and dz, so I hoped that maybe I'm missing something.
    – Avia Efrat
    Feb 12 '19 at 14:02
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    @AviaEfrat Unicode's made it a goal to include everything that ever got its own encoding. Dutch and a few others made their own encodings pre-Unicode (e.g. for Dutch it's CP1102), so their digraphs get special codepoints in Unicode; Tagalog didn't. (And if you look at the codepoints for ij and such you'll see their use isn't recommended any more, and they decompose into ij etc.)
    – Draconis
    Feb 12 '19 at 15:25
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    @AviaEfrat: The special code points for lj, nj, and dz are another legacy: They come from earlier code pages facilitating lossless Latin-Cyrilic conversion for Serbocroatian (at that point of time considered one language officially) Feb 13 '19 at 10:55

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