Re: Rare Writing Directions

From: Mark Davis (
Date: Tue May 27 1997 - 13:30:18 EDT

1. This method is already described in the current standard. You can
order it either via information on, or through

2. The purpose of the bidi algorithm was to have at least minimal
legibility of bidi plaintext in interchange.

Of particular difficulty is that modern Arabic and Hebrew freely mix in
numbers and other text (such as English) that goes left to right. It is
the mixed direction that makes the bidi algorithm necessary for
interchange, and in forcing us to add formatting characters.

With boustrophedon all of the text goes in a uniform direction (from
what I remember of my ancient Greek). (There are also character
rotations as well). The text is still legible if written all in the same
direction, so there would be no reason for any additional formatting


Unicode Discussion wrote:
> Some scripts are neither left-to-right, nor right-to-left.
> 1.
> 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
> way.
> I think, it would be useful to have this method described in a
> forthcoming Unicode standard.
> 2.
> 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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