Rare Writing Directions

From: Otto Stolz (Otto.Stolz@uni-konstanz.de)
Date: Mon May 26 1997 - 10:31:52 EDT

Some scripts are neither left-to-right, nor right-to-left.


Mongolian is written top-to-bottom; Japanese and Chinese used
to be written this way, the lines were stacked right-to-left.

Recently, somebody (sorry, I haven't kept that note) has said that
mixing Latin with Japanese was impossible, hence modern Japanese is
written left-to-right. However, there is a way to mix top-to-bottom
with horizontally written scripts: about twenty years ago I have seen
a book in Japanese, written top-to-bottom, with German proper, and
place, names imbedded. These were also written top-to-bottom, with
the glyphs rotated by 90 degrees; so you could turn the book counter-
clockwise to read these names, in the usual way. This imebedding
method would also work with left-to-right phrases in Mongolian text.
For righ-to-left scripts, you would have to turn the glyphs the other

I think, it would be useful to have this method described in a
forthcoming Unicode standard.


Some old scripts (Greek, Latin, Hethitic, Runes) were used to write
boustropheda. A boustrophedon runs back and forth like a ploughing
ox (thence the name), i.e. the lines are written, alternatingly,
left-to-right and right-to-left.

As Unicode will adopt the Runes alphabet (or rather: fuşark), it
would propbably be useful to have boustrophedon-markers akin to the
existing LEFT-TO-RIGHT MARK and its siblings, U+200E .. U+200F and
U+202A .. U+202E. These markers could be used to mark plain, logically
formatted, Unicode text. (To mark physically formatted text, you could
probably use the OVERRIDE characters, U+202D and U+202E.)

Also a normative boustrophedon algorithm, akin to the existing bidi
algorithm would probably be nice to have. I guess, this algorithm
could be much simpler than the bidi algorithm, as the boustrophedon
feature will apply only to whole paragraphs (it is more like a layout
style, which does not have to allow for intrinsic character features).

Opinions? Am I wrong, again?

Best wishes,
   Otto Stolz

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