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Ogham stone, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Source: pmangan / Adobe Stock.

Writing in Ogham: A Unique Challenge (Video)


The Ogham stone, a unique artifact with carvings from an ancient Irish alphabet, presents an exceptional challenge for modern scholars and technology. The Ogham script, used to record names and land ownership, is read along a stemline, with characters comprising one to five markings on one side, the other side, through, or on the line. When scholars tried to transcribe it onto paper, they adapted it for easier comprehension, leading to an interesting technology problem later on. When encoding Ogham into Unicode, the international standard for displaying text on a computer, it became the only language where a space is not a traditional space.

Ordinarily, a space character is empty, serving as a break between words or lines. However, in Ogham, the space includes the stemline, making it a space that isn't a space. Though other languages historically used similar separators, modern usage had deemed them non-spaces. Ogham became an exception to this rule, sparking discussions among linguists and computer scientists. Ultimately, the ruling affirmed that Ogham's space could also be a line. This intriguing linguistic quirk showcases how an ancient script can challenge established conventions and enrich our understanding of language and its evolution.

Top image: Ogham stone, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Source: pmangan / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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