Reasons why old and modern Cyrillic are unified in Unicode
Adrian Englert, A & M Communication, Switzerland

Intended Audience: N/A

Session Level: N/A

Modern Cyrillic and old Cyrillic are almost two different scripts: they need different fonts to be displayed, they are respectively used in very different language contexts and they have different contextual rules, as different scripts may have. The presentation will give many examples of how old and modern Cyrillic are behaving in present and past historical documents. The great difference between modern and old Cyrillic explains why some people propose to disunify (distinguish and separate) some Cyrillic letters which have a quite different glyph in the two historical forms of Cyrillic. But we should ask ourselves: how far can we go in that direction? There is no clear limit between what is the same and what is not the same character in the two forms, but there are lots of particular cases which we study in the presentation.

Unification of Cyrillic has great advantages, because with a unique memory representation for one text, it is possible, for instance, to find a word on Internet, independently of its graphical form (old or new), and there are lots of other examples that we will see. That is what a disunification of the two forms, even a partial one, will destroy. Most people who propose partial disunification didn't foresee the real impact of such an approach on the reality of text exchange, because it is very difficult to anticipate such a thing. But Unicode, which is based on a large experience of text exchange, has often preferred unification. Let us see the advantage of this approach.

There are solutions to keep old and new Cyrillic unified. Advanced typography as OpenType allows to give very different graphical forms to the same text string, depending on the font and language context. It could be a smart solution to keep a complete unification of Cyrillic. But some problems in Unicode have not been solved yet. Actually the old Cyrillic specialists don't use the Unicode standard but prefer home made solutions. We will study some particular old Cyrillic writing conventions to try and understand why they are never based on the Unicode standard.