Re: Unicode CJK Language Myth

From: Maureen Donovan (
Date: Thu May 09 1996 - 08:18:52 EDT

>To address this issue, I think the Cosortium should write a white paper
>which discusses Han unification in a detailed way

If a white paper is written it should also address whether it is possible
for Unicode to expand enough to accommodate all the characters that are
being identified as more and more large e-text input projects are making
progress in Taiwan, Japan, China, Korea, etc. Although "Han unification"
problems make the front pages, people working on serious projects are more
concerned with the fundamental inability of the code to meet their needs,
from what I hear. The code is said to be just too small.

I would hate to see a big effort go into preparing a white paper that would
not address the needs of advanced users, but just the political issues that
have been picked up by the media for sensational reporting .....

Anecdotes about individual Chinese and Japanese people who do not know
particular characters aside, if those characters cannot be input into
repositories of their literatures, catalogs of their libraries, etc. then a
black box is put there, making the database that much less useful and
creating all sorts of confusion.

>The fact that Unicode is starting to make headway in the Internet
>standards process is fine, but what will really drive it forward is to
>have mainstream mailers, browsers, and servers that support Unicode and
>take advantage of it.

If the Unicode Consortium is interested mainly in supporting mainstream
applications that will be used by ordinary people for email, news, word
processing, etc. to facilitate better global communications and information
exchange then this should be stated in the white paper. If it is true,
that would help to clarify the situation. As it is, it sometimes seems
that Unicode is claiming to be and do everything and then not delivering.
If Unicode would, indeed, like to be and do everything, then -- please --
contact the advanced users, the people involved in the Buddhist text input
projects or the various national digital library input projects in Asia for
advice on meeting their needs and then develop a plan to expand the code so
as to meet them.

My guess is that the needs of scholars and mainstream/business users have
been conflated, resulting in much of the confusion that is reported. In
Asia the views of scholars are widely reported in the press -- and
respected by people in the mainstream much more than in North America.
Interestingly, one of the most widely reported attacks on Unicode in the
Japanese press involved the views of a Japanese professor of French

Maureen Donovan
Ohio State University Libraries

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