Re: Greek/Etruscan/Gothic Unification Proposal

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Tue Nov 18 1997 - 19:40:31 EST

John Cowan has proposed a unification of Etruscan and Gothic
with Greek, rather than encoding them as separate scripts.

This kind of issue--to unify or to separate--will recur in
numerous instances when dealing with related historic scripts.
There are always fuzzy edge cases and obvious historic antecedents
for many letters. The Greek script is both the progenitor and
the descendant of many other related alphabetic systems in Europe,
the Middle East, and the Caucasus.

John sums up the advantages:

> The advantage of this scheme is that (at the expense of some
> space in the Greek block) these languages, like Coptic, become
> representable on the BMP; in addition, 27 + 31 - 11 = 47 codepoints
> are saved.

One disadvantage is that the Unicode Technical Committee already
decided (on May 27, 1997) to encode Etruscan and Gothic as
separate scripts on Plane 1. Corresponding proposals have been
introduced into the WG2 process. And encoding them as separate
scripts reflects the agreed-upon roadmap for encoding historic
scripts. Departing from that roadmap in this instance is likely
to cause contention and delay encoding of Etruscan and Gothic,
but worse, would open up a Pandora's box of historic unification
of related scripts, raising problems that cannot reasonably be solved
by the character encoding committees.

A second disadvantage is that unification implies an inability
to separate the scripts in plain text. Etruscan and Gothic could
only be carried by specific Etruscan and/or Gothic fonts applied
to Greek character data. It is not at all clear that that is the
best way to approach encoding of such historic scripts. There is a
fine line to be walked here, but overunification of historically
related scripts is as problematical for plain text data
storage and processing as is underunification (i.e. encoding
multiple glyphs for what should be a single character).

It is not too great a step from the Greek/Etruscan/Gothic unification
to the Greek/Latin/Etruscan/Gothic unification. After all, Etruscans
and Umbrians lived right next door to the Romans, who also got
their alphabet from the Greeks.

Since the proposals that are moving forward place Etruscan and
Gothic on Plane 1, the point about saving 47 code positions
does not really apply. Code positions are not at such a premium on
Plane 1.


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