From: Stevan Harrell (stevehar@u.washington.edu)
Date: Tue Jan 07 1997 - 17:08:06 EST


        I'm the professor of anthropology at the University of Washington
who was referred to all of you by Steve Graham with respect to the
encoding of "New Standard Yi" (otherwise known as Nuosu Bburma) in
Unicode. I have been conducting ethnological research in Liangshan for
the last decade off and on, and am currently writing a book about ethnic
relations there. I can speak some Nuosu and read simple texts. I am very
interested that Nuosu gets included in Unicode.
        I saw the proposals from Mr. Everson. I think including the
middle-high tone mark is very important, though some dialects don't have
it. I am not sure what the value would be of encoding a set of
"radicals." I know that some dictionaries allow for looking up Nuosu
syllabic signs according to the shape of certain strokes, and they also
occur in the exercise sections of the elementary school readers I am
learning from, but these are in no sense comparable to the "radicals" of
the Kangxi dictionary and its successors. They are, as far as I can tell,
an imposition of an idea developed to classify Chinese characters on a
script that has nothing to do with Chinese characters, being neither
similar to nor derived from them.
        I would like to know more details about what is happening with the
inclusion of Nuosu in Unicode. I am not a specialist on scripts, much
less on their computer encoding, so the software technicalities would
probably go over my head, but I would like to know how the signs are going
to be arranged, and also the issue of transliteration. As many of you
probably know, the current transliteration is good and bad. Good because
it uses no diacritics or odd signs, and can thus be typed easily on a
standard keyboard. Bad because it's counter-intuitive for speakers of most
latin-alphabet languages. On balance, I would vote to keep it, because
it's so easy to type. After all, those who don't know the language are
unlikely to want to use the character set, and those who do will know how
to pronounce them. But this is just my personal opinion.
        Stevan Harrell
        Professor of Anthropology
        University of Washington
        Seattle WA 98195-3100

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