RE: Benefits of Unicode

From: Thomas Chan (
Date: Mon Jan 29 2001 - 15:01:59 EST

On Mon, 29 Jan 2001, Marco Cimarosti wrote:

> Richard Cook wrote:
> > Has anybody played devil's advocate to this, with a list of
> > "Failings of
> > Unicode"? Are there any? :-) This question might in fact result in a
> > longer Benefits list ....
> Although I've always been a Unicode fan, Richard's invitation is too
> tempting. :-)

Richard Cook sought to identify more benefits through this strategy, so
here is one:

> ***
> *** Unicode has too many CJK ideographs for the layman, but too few for
> scholars.
> ***

But for the scholars, Unicode offers a lot more compared to most other
widely-available solutions (e.g, Big5), without having to get involved in
poorly-supported schemes (e.g., CCCII), messy character set and
encoding mixing (e.g., ISO 2022), proprietary schemes (e.g., TRON),
font-specific hacks (e.g, Mojikyo), etc. Cases where Unicode is lacking
compared to other schemes (e.g., CCCII, CNS 11643 w/ all planes, HKSCS,
etc) is soon made up through carefully-assembled supplements with an eye
for the needs of multiple CJK languages, unlike those haphazardly put
together (e.g., HKSCS), or hardly updated at all, or do not have enough
input beyond the experts in their home countries (e.g., CNS 11643, Mojikyo)
to be fully comprehensive, etc.

(That paragraph needs to be greatly simplified...)

> <explaining the problem>
> </explaining>
> <excusing>
> The problem exists only for scholars studying archaic texts, and for few
> other people who need unusual ideographs. The great majority of Chinese,
> Japanese and Korean users only need a relatively small and well-known subset
> of the existing ideograph.
> To fulfill the needs of everyday usage, it makes sense to use the simpler
> approach one character = one ideograph.
> </excusing>

I think one should revise that to "... a relatively small and well-known
subset ... for everyday purposes".

"archaic texts" sounds a bit harsh to me, although it does account for the
majority of the infrequently used ones. But how can we convey that in a
way to the layman without downplaying the needs of historians, scholars of
literature, publishers, linguists, dialect writers, government
recordkeeping, etc? For example, we have already seen that linguists
needing IPA fonts have taken a back seat compared to more-profitable
or simpler scripts.

By the way, one Chinese-specific benefit of Unicode that has not been
mentioned is the capability to mix traditional and simplified text.

Thomas Chan

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