Re: Discrimination for or against Devanagari?

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Thu Jan 09 1997 - 14:07:00 EST

Sandeep Sibal ( wrote:

> You still havent responded on why ligatures are
> present for Latin and Arabic, while Devanagari's half-consonants
> that look and sound different (let alone visually distinct
> ligatures) are not? Why this biased treatment??

The ligatures, especially the Arabic ligatures, were encoded
"for compatibility". That is a polite way of saying they were
needed to meet some requirement to get the standard approved,
or were needed for backwards compatibility to some existing
encoding implementation which had a different model of text
representation. In the case of the Arabic ligatures, the
motivation was entirely for standards approval, because there
was no existing implementation.

As the Unicode Standard clearly states, the preferred encoding
of Arabic does not use the encoded Arabic ligatures from
U+FB50..U+FDFF--and in fact their inclusion in the standard has
only made full support of Arabic more complicated, rather than

Devanagari, happily, did not have its encoding muddied by the
superfluous addition of half-forms and conjuncts. There is a
very complete and consistent model of Devanagari text encoding
and rendering published in the standard. And that model is not
a theoretical abstraction, since it is based on several existing
implementations of the script.

The encoding of Devanagari (and of the other Brahmi-derived
Indic scripts) in Unicode did such a good job of consistently
following the character-glyph model of text processing that
I think one ought to consider the question rather of why
Devanagari got such good treatment in the standard, while
the Arabic script encoding is now burdened by a large set of
arbitrary ligatures encoded as characters, as well as all the
positional forms. Sounds like bias against the Arabic script
to me.

--Ken Whistler

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