Re: Brahmic harmonization

From: unicode@Unicode.ORG
Date: Sat Jun 08 1996 - 09:22:44 EDT

At 18:43 1996-06-07, Eng C. Born wrote:
> It is a good idea to support Sanscrit and Pali. But, what do you mean
>by Brahmin harmonization? I saw a Sanskrit alphabet table in a dictionary
>once and it bears some simalarity to the present Khmer script. In my opinio=
>the code assignment should be arranged as close as possible to the way
>each script are used and taught in school.

Brahmic harmonization means ensuring that the repertoire and code positions
for scripts derived from the Brahmi script (practically all the scripts in
Southeast Asia) are as close to one another as possible. This has the
advantage (in India where the practice was established) of enabling people
to read data in their preferred script. This is especially useful for
languages which are closely related, such as the Indo-European or Dravidian
languages. Imagine walking into a telephone booth in Trivandrum and
dialling up an electronic telephone directory. It comes up in Tamil, which
you don't read -- but you press a button and the display switches to
Gurmukhi, or Devanagari -- or even Khmer or Burmese. So you find your
friend's name easily. All based on the same data.

Why members of WG2 have believed that Brahmic harmonization was a good idea
is that it means that basic software for all Brahmic scripts would be
pretty much the same, only relatively small script-specific changes need be
made to support other Brahmic scripts, whether they be major scripts like
Khmer or Burmese or Sinhalese, or minor scripts like Manipuri or Lepcha or
Tai Lu. Sorting and word-breaking algorithms would be written specifically
for each script, whether or not harmonization is used, because of
peculiarities in each of the scripts which make it necessary.

Another important reason for harmonization is the importance of Sanskrit
and Pali, both as religious and scientific languages in their own right and
as source languages for modern words used in Khmer, Burmese (etc.). The
corpus of Sanskrit and Pali data is of such an enormous size -- and of such
enormous cultural importance to Asia and to all the world -- that the
notion of making data transfer for common texts more difficult should shock
us. In this sense it is also a shame that Thai and Lao use a very different
set of coding conventions -- but note that they are harmonized with one
another for the same reasons discussed here. You have said: "In my opinion,
the code assignment should be arranged as close as possible to the way each
script are used and taught in school." This makes data transfer (for
instance for _common_ texts like the Buddhist Canon) far more difficult
than it need be, and requires new software to be written for each and every
script, where harmonization allows a common source core to operate for each
script. This is less expensive -- not a small concern for the users of
these scripts. Not to do this -- to base each script's code table on "what
is taught in school" -- can certainly be done, but what is the advantage?
The ordinary user won't see the code table. In the Latin script, just
transferring data from the PC to the Macintosh can be a problem or an
irritation for people, who know nothing about _why_ their vowels come out
wrong. We should not cripple the users of Asian scripts with the same
thing. (It's true folks: much as I love the Macintosh (and gods know I do),
I wish the code table were Latin 1. Hmm... No, I don't. I wish it were

Brahmic harmonization is a term I use because the scripts are based on the
Brahmi script of King Ashoka. Hugh Ross has used the term Indic
harmonization, and others have referred to ISCII, the Indian national
standard. I don't like to do this because 1) what is in 10646 is not
identical with ISCII and 2) the harmonization is based on structural and
historical similarities and not on anything particularly Indian.

Best regards,

Michael Everson, Everson Gunn Teoranta
15 Port Chaeimhghein =CDochtarach; Baile =C1tha Cliath 2; =C9ire (Ireland)
Guth=E1in: +353 1 478-2597, +353 1 283-9396
27 P=E1irc an Fh=E9ithlinn; Baile an Bh=F3thair; Co. =C1tha Cliath; =C9ire

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