Applying the Unicode Standard in the Philology of Ancient Texts: Its Potential and Limitations
Carl-Martin Bunz - University of Saarland
Because the commercially relevant scripts have now been encoded, the application of the Unicode Standard in areas rather outside the scope of everyday life are coming under consideration. Unicode's claim of universality obviously is a challenge with regard to researchers working on ancient texts and their languages.
My presentation intends to show an extremely complex case of ancient text research, namely Avestan philology. The coding needs of the philologist who is editing such a text, by definition cannot be covered by any encoding standard. This fact is countered by the need of communication especially in the modern world of electronic data exchange in scientific work. So the philologist and historical linguist will find its way using Unicode on the one hand, and higher level protocols (e.g. XML) on the other in order to code all information required in his critical edition.
Avestan manuscript often comprise four languages and five scripts (Avestan: Avestan script; Middle Persian: Book Pahlavi script and Avestan script [Pazend]; Modern Persan: Arabic script; Sanskrit: Devanagari), four RTL and one LTR. While Avestan comes in a highly distinct phonetic alphabet, Middle Persian is written in a remarkably under-determined system, based on an exceptionally small set of distinct characters and, additionally, intermingling eteo- and heterographic elements.
Given the fact that is not yet finally clear to what extent the Unicode Standard can make concessions to scholarly needs for future ancient script proposals, my presentation will display highly sophisticated scholarly work in a particular case, but at the same time focus on general concepts such as archigraphemic encoding which are not conformant to the architectural principles of Unicode.
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