RE: Not all Arabics are created equal...

From: Gregg Reynolds (
Date: Tue Jul 11 2000 - 23:46:34 EDT

I guess it isn't as obvious as I thought. Please reread - carefully - my
message, and tell me then if you really think the most significant digit of
a string of digits appears first - IN READING ORDER - in a purely Persian
text. READING ORDER does NOT mean the order in which numbers are enuciated
in a spoken representation; that is, it is NOT synonymous with SPEAKING

I have before me a 1911 copy of "A Grammar of the Persian Language" by John
T. Platts, an Oxford scholar. On page 182 the text reads (my loose,
arabic-base transliteration):

        d) The numbers compounded of the units and the tens are formed by
prefixing the unit to the ten, and by uniting them by the conjunction 'va'
[arabic wa] 'and'; as 'ahad va `ishroona', 'one and twenty'. The numerals
made up of thousands, hundreds, tens, and units, usually follow the
order--units, tens, &c.; e.g. 464 "arba` wa sitteena wa arba`ami'a", 'four
and sixty and four hundred'.

Just like Arabic. Did he just get it completely wrong? It's possible, but
in general those ol' 19th century European Philologists were pretty good on
the details. Today's practice may differ from that of previous eras.

Not enough? Here's "Grammar of the Persian Language" by Duncan Forbes,

The above figures or numeric cyphers, now use by the Arabs and Persians, are
read like ours, from left to right; thus, the year or our era 1861 is
<ar>1861</ar>; so the corresponding year of the Hijra 1278 is
<ar>1278</ar>... At first sight it [the decimal system] would appear to be
at variance with the Arabian mode of reading (from right to left); but this
is not really the case, as the Arabs do read the numbers from right to left.
Thus, instead of saying, "In the year of the Hijra (<ar>1278</ar>) One
thousand two hundred and seventy eight," the Arabs say, "In the year of the
Hijra, Eight and seventy and two hundred and one thousand" or "Eight and
seventy and two hundred after the thousand."

In any case, it doesn't matter, because the writing and speaking protocols
are totally irrelevant to the _semantic_ interpretation of the written text;
this is indisputable. If it is not clear to you please write me offline.

Most importantly, please understand that Unicode is a not divine revelation,
in spite of the religious fanaticism of its defenders; remember that its
primary purpose is to protect the investments of (primarily) western
corporations. And it just gets some things wrong. Why this is so painful
to admit is beyond me.



> -----Original Message-----
> From: Roozbeh Pournader []
> Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2000 10:03 AM
> To: Unicode List
> Cc: Unicode List
> Subject: RE: Not all Arabics are created equal...
> On Mon, 10 Jul 2000, Gregg Reynolds wrote:
> > I imagine this is pretty obvious so I
> > won't belabor it. For the record, the Arabic language
> (Classical, spoken
> > variety) has always accepted both LSD and MSD first verbalization of
> > numbers. See Wright's Grammar, Book I paragraph 327 (page 259 in my
> > edition).
> >
> > The only remedy I can see for this particular flaw in Unicode is the
> > introduction of a codepoint to set or maybe swap the
> evaluation rule for
> > number strings.
> We have had this discussion here before. The only thing I
> want to say now:
> even if you're right, this is only the case for the Arabic
> language, and
> not other Arabic script using language like Persian.

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