Re: character semiotics (was RE: Mixed up priorities)

From: A. Vine (
Date: Thu Oct 21 1999 - 19:17:00 EDT

"Reynolds, Gregg" wrote:
> So is anything wrong with such an approach? Well, in my opinion, yes, very
> wrong. I don't think it captures the semiotics of written language very
> well at all. I confess I am unable to imagine any member of any literate
> community who would agree that characters are divisible, except on the
> understanding that "character" is a purely graphical notion. And it seems
> to me that if a literary tradition says that the semantics of "dgwej$#^ag;j"
> is a single grammatical/cultural semiotic unit (for lack of a better term),
> then that is how it should be encoded.
> P.S. I'm scratching my way through Eco's "A Theory of Semiotics" which is
> where I get the term "cultural unit" as a kind of fundamental unit of
> meaning. I don't have a better term at the moment. And Unicode is about
> semiotics, not about "text processes".

But, Gregg, what is meaning, after all? Is 'f' a semiotic unit to you? Is
'I'? Does 'I' hold a greater significance than 'f' because it has another
meaning? Why is 'f' encoded and not 'if'? If 'if' were what the average
English speaker would identify as a single letter, is it sufficient to say it's
encoded as 'i' + 'f'?

Is Unicode's lack of capturing the semiotics of written language a by-product of
its philosophy of characters, or a result of the restrictions imposed on it by
existing computer systems and software? Or to add another possibility, could it
be that for the sake of getting something useful out in a timely manner (and
there are those who would argue about the timeliness as it is), philosophical
discussions had to be suspended?

One must ponder these questions...


Sun i18n architect

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