Re: Amerindian Characters

From: Eric Brunner (
Date: Wed Jun 16 1999 - 17:04:17 EDT

Oki (Kwi Kwi),

I think a better point of departure is the recognition that this
technical community has something to offer to language teachers,
and that the language communities control their languages, writing
systems included.

Two of my own languages, Siksika and Abenaki have acquired a new
writing form, which I personally find more aesthetically pleasing
and diacritically simplified. We still have the "8" in Abenaki, a
conscious choice of linkage to 17th century French, but the rest
of the repetoires are no longer scarred by 19th century Americanist
Anthropologists enthralled by speed writing systems.

Last week I spoke to the organizer of last Spring's Tribal Language
Teachers Conference, held in South Dakota, and regional in scope.
I wasn't greatly surprised that the NLD (Nakota/Lakota/Dakota) group
were also in the process of diacritical simplification.

I already include questions intended to provide for accurate and
community defined examplar (or authoritative) references for IANA
registration (prior exchange with John Cowan), and for iso639-style
parallel tables (prior mail to unicode and several other lists). I
haven't overlooked asking about character sets, modern and archaic,
or locale-specific data. The questions will go out in a few weeks
under the joint-aegis of the National Congress of American Indians
and the Assembly of First Nations, along with some DNS and NA(A)NOG
stuff which isn't german to this list. I expect the NCAI/AFN data
will come in this Fall.

You all do have an opportunity to suggest whatever you think makes a
writing system more useful, more beautiful, more teachable -- just do
keep in mind that you won't be the first to have done so, and we're
still cleaning up the mess made by the last lot of careless modernists.
(The reference is to the 19th century missonaries and bible translators.)

Kitakitamatsinopowaw, (Adio is _shorter_)
>Rather than start down the same, sad, political engineering path
>pioneered by all the arguments over precomposed characters needed for the
>official alphabets of European languages, it is far preferable to
>recognize that representation of text for the Americas is best
>done by making use of the combining marks that are *already*
>present in the standard, rather than fighting for years over which
>additional precomposed characters to add to the standard.
>If you make use of the combining marks, *all* languages of
>the Americas are already representable using the Unicode Standard.
>If you refuse to use combining marks, it will be *decades*
>before the surveying, collecting, arguing, and balloting is done,
>and even then, you still risk the likelihood that commercial
>applications in the future may abjure such marginal additions
>anyway, leaving support for the additions in limbo anyway.
>--Ken Whistler

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