Source: Rick McGowan
Date: April 14, 2009
Subject: Report on Action Item 118-A48
References: L2/09-032 ( http://www.unicode.org/L2/L2009/09032-n3568.pdf )
                  = WG2 N3568 ( http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n3568.pdf )

UTC Action Item 118-A48: Check if the glyphs were swapped for U+1883 MONGOLIAN LETTER ALI GALI UBADAMA and U+1884 MONGOLIAN LETTER ALI GALI INVERTED UBADAMA and report back

Executive summary: Preliminary findings are currently inconclusive, and the action item should be closed.

Document L2/09-032 by Andrew West and Christopher Fynn stated as follows:

Note that the inverted and ordinary forms of the Tibetan MCHU CAN sign corrrespond to U+1883 MONGOLIAN LETTER ALI GALI UBADAMA and U+1884 MONGOLIAN LETTER ALI GALI INVERTED UBADAMA respectively, although the names of these two characters are probably inadvertantly swapped, as it is the glyph form of U+1883 that is the inverted ubadama. It is believed that these two Mongolian characters were encoded on the basis of the example shown in Fig.1.

To follow up on my action 118-A48, on March 26, 2009, I wrote to the Mongolian experts list:

My question for this group is whether there is any glyph error in the Mongolian charts, and whether the glyphs for U+1883/1884 are inadvertently swapped in the charts. Or is there nothing wrong?/p>

On March 27, Andrew West replied:

These are very rare characters and it is difficult to find sources that use them, so I cannot be certain, but based on the shape of the Tibetan signs that they derive from, and the unambiguous correspondence between the Tibetan and Mongolian examples that use these signs in Tongwen Yuntong (N3568 Fig.1 : Tibetan PA/PHA plus U+0F89 == Mongolian PA/PHA plus U+1884) I think that the m-shaped sign (U+1884 "inverted ubadama") must be the standard ubadama sign (= U+0F89 TIBETAN SIGN MCHU CAN) and the w-shaped sign (U+1883 "ubadama") must be the inverted ubadama corresponding to the proposed TIBETAN SIGN INVERTED MCHU CAN.

Given the rarity of these characters, I can imagine that the names and glyphs of these two characters could easily have got muddled up during the encoding process. However, if this is a mistake, the code charts have shown the glyphs swapped for these characters for almost ten years now, and changing the glyphs at this stage would be counter-productive and destabilizing.

If it can be confirmed that this is a mistake then I would suggest simply annotating the two characters in question to indicate that the names are misnomers, and that it is actually U+1883 that is the inverted form of the sign.

On March 30, Martin Heijdra wrote:

While I have seen more examples of the same kind as the document provided (the Tongwen Yuntong, other Ali Gali's etc.), i.e., rather hypothetical examples in syllabaries of the use of these symbols, I have never seen, outside Unicode-inspired articles and tables, the NAME for these symbols in Mongolian or Chinese. Therefore, I cannot add anything more than Andrew already said.

To which Andrew West replied on March 31:

Well of course the name in Chinese characters, 烏巴達嘛 wubadama, is given in the Tongwen Yuntong example shown in N3568, bbut the name appears to be applied to both forms of the sign, so is not much help.

I would agree with Martin that it is exceedingly unlikely that there is any pre-Unicode source in any language that will explicitly note that one sign is called an ubadama and the other sign is called as inverted ubadama. I think the best we can hope for is that some learned Mongolian lama familiar with Mongolian translations of Kalacakra texts will be able to say that either U+1883 or U+1884 is the normal ubadama sign and the other one is an unusual inverted form.

In the absence of access to a learned Mongolian lama, I suggest we close the action for now.