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I have a problem sorting strings in french :

This is my query :

SELECT LIBELLE as LibelleCourant,
       CODE as code
ORDER BY LibelleCourant;

And this is the result

BAYARD          | BAY
LESIER          | LES
<Non renseigné> | INC
PAM             | PAM

As you can see, oracle seem to ignore the '<' charactrer and order only with alphabet characters. <Non renseigné> is neither at the top nor at the bottom. I tried NLSSORT(name, 'NLS_SORT=french'); but the result is the same.

I would like to have a basic ordering, with special chars either at the top or at the bottom (or both if it uses char codes, nevermind). As the data is user-generated, i cannot predict which chars will be used so i think i can not use CASE statements.

Thank you.

PS: Oracle Database 10g Enterprise Edition Release - Prod

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and if you try nls_sort=BINARY? – Munchi Oct 22 '13 at 11:44
Thanks, this is a good step. It seems i missed this in the docs. However, Special letters like É or À are now sent to the bottom too (big char code i guess). Hopefully there are not many words concerned in our application. Thank you – niahoo Oct 22 '13 at 14:14

I use this solution but it is not an elegant solution. It converts all accented french characters to english equivalents and strips out odd characters.

order by translate(LibelleCourant,'ÉéÀàÇçÈèÙù''/*;"<>() ','EeAaCcEeUu')

Edit: if you want to keep the special characters to sort by then change the translate function.
Example: you want to keep the < and > symbols, just add them to the end string order by translate(LibelleCourant,'ÉéÀàÇçÈèÙù<>''/*;"() ','EeAaCcEeUu<>')

What is happening is that any single character which is present in the first string and has a corresponding value in the second string will be replaced. Extra characters will be removed. These characters will be replaced ÉéÀàÇçÈèÙù<> and these characters will be removed: ''/*;"()

See the Oracle docs for more info.

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Thank you, but with this,<Non renseigné> is treated like Nonreseigne so it is not sent to the bottom but still mixed with the values starting with N. – niahoo Oct 22 '13 at 14:17
Ok, thanks this was really useful. – niahoo Oct 22 '13 at 14:23
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Ok so with the help of Munchi and kevinsky i mixed up their advice to arrive to this :

SELECT LIBELLE as LibelleCourant,
       CODE as code
ORDER BY NLSSORT(translate(libelle,'ÉéÀàÇçÈèÙù','EeAaCcEeUu'), 'nls_sort=BINARY');

So the sort BINARY sends values starting with < to the top (i would rather the bottom but eh .. it's ok) but before, special letters are translated to normal letters in the order clause.

That's good with French but a little bookkeeping may be necessary for other languages with many more special letters.

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