Unicode and New World Languages: What's Done, and What's To Do

Philip Blair, jr. - International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (The World Bank)

Intended Audience: Software Engineer, Systems Analyst
Session Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

A "World ALPHA" working group has been proposed "to carry forward the WS-ALPHA work (Alphabets of the Indigenous Languages of Europe) in an international context." It has been suggested that European and American scripts be the first areas on the agenda. To support that effort, this paper inventories Unicode resources already available for American languages and suggests priorities for developing these resources farther. First, we develop a catalog of the scripts and writing systems of the Americas, both ancient and modern. Spurious claims are noted, as well as possible additions to the catalog which will perhaps be verified by additional research. Currently available Unicode resources are then listed. We then suggest priorities for the development of additional Unicode-based resources. Preliminary versions of three useful databases are offered: (1) a comprehensive and annotated collaborative bibliography to support this work (with some 1000 initial items); (2) draft entries for a registry (or registries) of characters for specific American languages; (3) a list of possible collaborating institutions beyond the Unicode and ALPHA consortiums.

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31 October 1999, Webmaster