Nature or politics, and Romanian letters

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Tue Jun 03 1997 - 14:03:59 EDT

At 13:18 -0400 1997-05-28, Johan van Wingen wrote:
>ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 has ALWAYS decided what will be included in its
>standards as characters, based on consensus from the National Bodies.

Yes, and properly so.

>A character is a member of a set of elements used for the organization,
>control or representation of data. And nothing else. That are the things
>we are speaking about, and not whether someone is a base character or

Romanians have said that S WITH CEDILLA and T WITH CEDILLA are not
satisfactory entities for the organization, control, or representation of
data in their language. We have provided empirical evidence which shows
that in multilingual data S WITH CEDILLA and S WITH COMMA BELOW and T WITH
CEDILLA and T WITH COMMA BELOW must coexist in ordinary unmarked text, and
that therefore 1) characters with COMMA BELOW should be added to ISO 10646
and that 2) ISO 8859 should be revised to contain Romanian characters where
it does not do so at present.

>Empirical evidence does not matter.

Fortunately, there are participants in SC2 who are more impressed by facts
than Mr van Wingen appears to be. I trust that SC2 will be able to take
Romania's needs into account, and

>If Romania wants to have some
>characters included, than that is a POLITICAL move, for which its NB is

It is not a POLITICAL move, it is an action necessary to organize, control,
and represent data correctly and unambiguously. Current standards do not do
this. The Romanian proposal to add characters to 10646 is technically
sound, and culturally correct. Refusing to see this, or seeing this and
refusing to accept it out of a mistaken attachment to the unification of
CEDILLA with COMMA BELOW (which has no support in ISO 10646) _is_ a
political statement, of the most pernicious kind, which can serve only to
harm the Romanians.

>And foreign publishers have nothing to do with that. Thus
>SC2 may say YES or NO to proposals from some NB. That depends on the
>force of arguments used, and also on the cost involved.

The gainsayers have said that they wanted empirical evidence for the use of
Turkish and Romanian characters showing the clash. This has been found for
them. Now they are also claiming that "existing data" might be harmed -- to
which I can only say that the burden of proof is on them to show huge
mountains of UCS data which would have to be converted. (This didn't stop
anyone from changing Hangul, which was costly enough to some companies in

>Whether entities emerge or vanish as a character is not an autonomous

The Romanian characters are not new. The unification foisted upon them was
false. Romanians want to improve the situation and have sought to do so by
participating in international standardization process.

>That a thing is part of the orthography of a language may be
>for SC2 an argument to include it in some standard, or not. But the way
>the language is spelled depends on political decisions, and those may

The spelling of Romanian has not changed. They have found the
identification of two characters in existing standards causes them trouble.
Adding characters to 10646 and correcting 8859-2 (which is under revision,
the perfect time to correct it) will do this for them.

>Suppose a Taiwan publisher is using some characters, needed to his
>opinion for writing Chinese. Will that mean these are to be included
>automatically into the Chinese character coding standard? Of course not.
>Inclusion is the result of a political decision, be it on government
>level, or at that of a appointed institution. In 1917 four letters were
>deleted from the Cyrillic alphabet by the Soviet rulers. If some emigre
>publications still use these letters, is that an argument to Moscow to
>put these into the GOST standards again?

Those characters are all in 10646 and also are available in 8-bit code tables.

>For years and years ISO 646
>IRV did not contain a dollar sign. That was because the COMECON
>countries did not want it to be there. But then Moscow changed its mind
>(before 1989, and possibly to improve commercial relations with the
>West). I still remember how horrified the Czech delegate to SC2 was,
>when he heard of it. Above all, ISO has to remain neutral.

Thank the gods for that. It means that the Romanians may look forward to
SC2 taking the correct decision, based on empirical evidence, at the
meeting in Crete.

Best regards,

Michael Everson, Everson Gunn Teoranta
15 Port Chaeimhghein Íochtarach; Baile Átha Cliath 2; Éire (Ireland)
Gutháin:  +353 1 478-2597, +353 1 283-9396
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn; Baile an Bhóthair; Co. Átha Cliath; Éire

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