I already posted this at https://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/137960/are-ligatures-used-in-the-word-affront-and-in-the-abbreviations-ebff-and-ff but maybe there is more typestting expertise on this SE? ;-)

We are in the final stages of typesetting a German book and are trying to correctly apply the German typesetting rules for ligatures. Our three last uncertainties are the word Affront (which is not German, but French, nevertheless used in this German text), the abbreviation Ebff., which is short for Erzbischöfe and the second f indicates a plural and finally ff. which means folgende but is pluralized through the second f as well.

So what is correct? enter image description here

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    @Mico -- Your comment addresses a question that might plausibly asked again, so even if the question is closed, I think an answer would be worthwhile. – barbara beeton Jun 7 '20 at 20:58
  • @barbarabeeton - Thanks. I'll go ahead and post a standalone answer. – Mico Jun 7 '20 at 21:00
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    @Mico Thanks for your comment and I agree with, make it an answer, I will accept it! – TobiBS Jun 7 '20 at 21:02
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    @barbaraeeton Thanks for the encouragement of Mico! – TobiBS Jun 7 '20 at 21:02
  • @barbarabeeton - Done. :-) – Mico Jun 7 '20 at 21:10

Are you familiar with the selnolig package? It provides automated ligature suppression for German and English documents. The package requires LuaLaTeX, so it may or may not be usable for your project.

One ligation rule -- cf section 3.4 of the user guide of the package, entitled "Ligature suppression rules: German language case", and esp. "Interlude II" on p. 10 -- says that ligatures should be used (i.e., not suppressed) if they occur at the end of abbreviated words. E.g., "Aufl." is written with an fl-ligature even though "Auflage" is not. The word "Auftrag" should not use an ft-ligature (assuming, of course, that the text font that's in use provides an ft-ligature), whereas it's fine to write the abbreviated form, 'Auft.', with a ligature.

According to this rule, then, both Ebff. and ff. should definitely be written with an ff-ligature.

The "affront" case is different. While it's true that the word derives from a combination of two Latin morphemes ('ad' and 'frons'; "ad frontem" -- "to the face"), it's also fair to point out that for the past few centuries most ordinary folks have likely been blissfully unaware of the word's etymology. De facto, then, 'affront' nowadays consists of a single morpheme. (As you probably know, syllable boundaries and morpheme boundaries needn't coincide.) As the ff-pair doesn't cross a morpheme boundary, there is therefore no need to suppress the ff-ligature. The fact that the syllable boundary crosses the ff-pair is irrelevant, as is the fact that the word "affront" is a "Fremdwort" in German (or, at most, a "Lehnwort").

  • The case of 'affront' is very interesting, because although as you say the word comes from 'ad' + 'frons' it doesn't make sense to talk about the 'af-' prefix in isolation, since it only comes about because of the 'f' in 'frons' (so in some sense 'affront' – 'front' ≠ 'ad'). I wonder what's recommended in a case where the morpheme boundary is recognizable but the prefix doesn't make sense in isolation — I suspect separating out the prefix would be more detrimental than helpful. – confusedandbemused Jun 8 '20 at 7:51
  • @confusedandbemused - Glad to see I'm not alone in (occasionally, mildly...) obsessing about when and when not to apply ligature suppression rules. :-) Prefixes attached to free morphemes generally become derivational morphemes. As long as it's reasonably clear that a composite word consists of <derivational morpheme><free morpheme>, ligatures that would cross the morpheme boundary should be suppressed. Take the case of the "sp" ligature, say: It should be suppressed for words such as transport and disposition (the free-morpheme verbs being "port" and "pose", resp.). (continued) – Mico Jun 8 '20 at 10:13
  • @confusedandbemused - (continued) On the other hand, the sp-ligature should not be suppressed for words such as desperate (free morpheme: sperare -- to hope) and dispell (free morpheme: spell). This is also discussed at length in the user guide of the selnolig package. Do you maybe have examples or words which have a no-longer-widely-recognized-as-such prefix component? – Mico Jun 8 '20 at 10:17
  • It's nice to let out the inner perfectionist once in a while. ;-) I follow the argument regarding derivational+free morphemes, although I'm not sure whether that clears up my doubt or not. I can't think of an example now where a ligature would actually be relevant, so let me make one up for a moment. Pretend there's an m-p ligature. Then we have such words as impersonal, where the prefix im- is clearly recognized as a form of in- expressing negation. This suggest that we ligate the word as im|personal (no ligature). (cont'd below) – confusedandbemused Jun 9 '20 at 9:53
  • (cont'd) On the other hand, the form of the prefix is only im- because of the p in personal — the isolated form of the prefix is in-, not im- (cf also affront). So splitting the word into im+personal could be confusing... perhaps an answer is to be found in an example similar to yours (I was going to use dispel, but apparently that's dis+pel, not dis+spel): in the variant spelling mispell of misspell, we have 'mis-'+'spell' = 'mispell'. If there's an s-p ligature, that's clearly preferred, but if there isn't, and there's an i-s ligature, you might ask whether to keep it. (cont'd) – confusedandbemused Jun 9 '20 at 10:01

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