RE: Coptic Unification Proposal

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Wed Nov 26 1997 - 11:17:36 EST

Ar 12:49 -0800 1997-11-25, scríobh Mansour, Kamal:

>* 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 did some Greek, and some Egyptian, and some Coptic when I was at
University. Never saw Coptic even in Latin -- always in Coptic. And the one
book I have here uses all three scripts, Latin, Coptic, and Greek.

>I personally have seen at least one
>Coptic scholar who uses Greek forms for writing Coptic (Prof. Tito Orlandi,
>University of Rome).

"At least one"? He publishes in Greek? I am surprised to hear it. My
Copticist informant, who sadly is no longer with us, Fr. Dirk van Damme,
had a lot to say about how he though Unicode should support Coptic. The
first thing he said was to abolish the useless unification. I wish Dirk
could take part in this discussion now. Anyway I have seen Coptic in many
sources in my experience with scripts etc. -- and I have never seen it set
in Greek until I did it yesterday for the first time.

>I find it very difficult to read Fraktur script, but I
>wouldn't ever consider splitting it from Latin.

Nor would I, and you don't have to read a text in Fraktur. It is normal to
switch to Roman fonts, and except for the long s, there's really no
problem. I maintain that it is not the same for Coptic.

>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.

Here is where you and I disagree, Kamal. Extensions to the Arabic script
are additions, but they are mostly base forms with some extra dots or rings
under or over them. The Coptic extensions we know to be borrowed from
another alphabet. The Copts borrowed first the local variant of the Greek
script as the base of their own script, and then added the needed sounds
for it. But the Greek kept on growning and changing and developing,
choosing forms closer to Latin, which is why we have Greek Times and Greek
Helvetica today just as we have Latinskij and Bastion for Cyrillic. But we
do not have these things for Coptic. We don't have SHEIs and FEIs and
GANGIAs designed in Times or Helvetica style for mixing with other Greek
letters because people just don't DO that for Coptic. The Arabic
extensions, by and large, do not work in much the same way.

It is regrettable that the extra Coptic letters got into the standard via a
Greek unification. (I bet it was my good friend Hugh Ross who came up with
that one back when the first DIS of 10646 was being put together. If I had
been there, I'd have faught it.) But we don't have consensus on the
unification. Even the standard doesn't support it. Look at Table 10, Greek
Symbols and Coptic.

As far as I can see, we have COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER SHEI and the rest. This
(Coptic)". Now you _do_ have ARABIC LETTER KIRGHIZ OE and so forth for the
Arabic extensions.

But the International Standard recognizes Coptic as a script apart from
Greek. The Unicode Standard tells people to mix Greek and Coptic to get
Coptic, but I do not think that this should be supported. I fail to see any
benefit to text processing in either the Greek or the Coptic languages by
maintaining the unification. All I see is the usual headaches resulting
from over-unifications generally, namely to the providers of fonts and to
the end user.

Best regards,

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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