Re: Etruscan

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Tue Nov 04 1997 - 13:59:03 EST

John said:

>2) The impression I got from the Etruscanist who replied to Michael was
>that modern Etruscan materials are written LTR as a result of the
>underlying technology, not out of a genuine preference on the part of
>Etruscanists. (Michael, do you think that's a fair assessment?)

I wouldn't like to say so. We could query our informant more, but the
impression I had was that since mostly his texts are mixed (a word in
text) it is more convenient, and also more attractive (especially given the
similarity of the Etruscan to the Latin script) to have LTR. He gave me the
impression that in a large block of Etruscan text by itself he might be
inclined to give it as n the original, which might be RTL or might be LTR.

>Most of
>the Etruscan material I've been able to locate has been LTR but also in
>Latin transcription.

You mean, instead of in Etruscan script?

>If my gut feeling is right, then to encode Etruscan LTR on this basis
>would be rather like encoding everything as precomposed because the
>technology most people are currently using has an easier time of that. I
>don't think such considerations should be ignored, but I don't think they
>should be paramount, either.

I think that the æsthetic case made above (if it is our informant's view)
is stronger than this.

>In this case, the relevant question to ask is if an Etruscan scholar
>preparing a modern summary of Etruscan texts *in Etruscan* would use the
>direction of the original text or not. If so, then RTL is probably the
>better way to go. (Michael, do you know what the _Corpus of Etruscan
>Inscriptions_ does?)

I try to find out.

>3) As we encode more and more ancient scripts, we're going to find more
>and more challenges to our assumptions that characters have well-defined
>properties and well-defined semantics. Directionality is a good case in
>point. Historically, Etruscan was written boustrophedon, then RTL, then
>LTR -- but even during the period when it was predominantly RTL, it would
>be written LTR if it were more convenient to do so.

Sooo... since at its end and today it was predominantly LTR does that mean
that we've closed the issue on the default directionality of Etruscan,
namely that it should be LTR?

>The current Unicode architecture allows for this to be properly handled.
>We define a default direction and allow directionality overrides to be
>used. **The main thing is to have a rendering rule to the effect that
>Etruscan characters flip their shapes when their direction changes.**

YES. And such a rendering rule would NOT affect all scripts that do this,
so it can't be universal. Which is why for instance we have a mirroring
formatter for Egyptian independent of the predominant direction.

>My own personal prejudice is towards encoding Etruscan as RTL because
>that's kind of the "majority use" of the script in antiquity, but not by
>a terribly wide margin.

Actually, as pointed out, there was a shift from RTL/LTR mixed system to
LTR-dominant system during the life of the script itself. So my question
above stands. However, I'll cc:ing our Etruscologist(s) with this so that
they can respond.

>Methinks that if one were to actually ask an
>ancient Etruscan which direction was best, they'd shrug their shoulders
>and get on with life.

Well, they might form a committee and discuss it endlessly. :-)

Michael Everson, EGT *
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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