RE: Coptic Unification Proposal

From: Mansour, Kamal (
Date: Tue Nov 25 1997 - 15:15:55 EST

On Tue 25 Nov 1997 05:02, Michael Everson wrote:

* In an edition of The Gospel According to St Thomas (1959, Leiden: Brill;
* New York: Harper & Row), all of the Coptic text is written on the left-hand
* page in Coptic script. Sometimes there is an English word ("blank") in the
* text of that page, naturally written in the normal Latin script. On the
* right hand page, the text is in English, in Latin script, and the direct
* loanwords in Greek ("=FE=E1lassa", "h=F3tan", "d=E9") are written in the nor=
* mal
* Greek script. The writing conventions aren't the same either, since h=F3tan
* is written with an initial h- in Coptic (and no accent) and in Greek it's
* with the rough breathing.

From the Unicode 2.0 Standard, page 2-8: 'The Unicode Standard avoids duplicate
encodings of characters by unifying them within scripts across languages;
characters that are equivalent in form are given a single code. Common letters
... are given one code each, regardless of language...'

The example quoted by Michael confuses the issue. Orthography (writing
conventions) is not the issue here. Once a language assimilates a foreign word
into its corpus, the spelling may change. In Unicode, the central focus is on
scripts, not languages. Should we take into consideration that in English
'honor' is spelled with an 'h' while in Italian it is spelled 'onore' with no
'h'? 'Adventure' is 'aventure' in French, but the Germanicized form of it is
'Abenteuer'. There are countless examples of such changes in many languages.

* I doubt very, very much if any Copticist presented with a Coptic text in
* Greek Times or Helvetica could read it with any ease whatsoever. The two
* scripts are closely related, but they should not be unified...

Because of the large number of Greek loanwords in Coptic, Copticists typically
have at least some knowledge of Greek. I personally have seen at least one
Coptic scholar who uses Greek forms for writing Coptic (Prof. Tito Orlandi,
University of Rome). I find it very difficult to read Fraktur script, but I
wouldn't ever consider splitting it from Latin. Pakistanis who are used to the
Nastaliq style of Arabic script may find Kufic style rather unpalatable, if not illegible,
but it still does not cause us to de-unify it from standard Arabic script.
Readers of the Arabic language cannot typically read, let alone recognize, the
extensions to Arabic script used for Farsi, Urdu, Sindhi, or Jawi. In fact, the
extensions to Arabic script are analogous to the Coptic extensions to Greek script.

Kamal Mansour
Monotype Typography

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