Announcement: Script Encoding Initiative

From: Deborah W. Anderson (
Date: Thu Apr 18 2002 - 02:02:03 EDT


A new Script Encoding Initiative has been set up at the Department of
Linguistics of the University of California at Berkeley. The charter of
this initiative is to fund proposals for those scripts missing in
Unicode, the universal character encoding standard.

To date, Unicode has largely focused on the major modern scripts. Some
minority and historic scripts have already been encoded, as well as
historic characters of the major modern scripts. At least 90 scripts
remain to be encoded. Minority scripts still used in parts of South and
Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East include Balinese, Batak,
Chakma, Cham, Meithei Mayek, New Tai Lu, N'Ko, Pahawh Hmong, Pollard,
Siloti Nagri, Tifinagh, and Vai. Scripts of historical significance
include Aramaic, Avestan, Brahmi, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Glagolitic,
Javanese, Kitan, Lanna, Lepcha, Old Permic, Pahlavi, 'Phags-pa,
Phoenician, South Arabian, Sumero-Akkadian Cuneiform, and Tangut.

Because proposals for the encoding of minority and historical scripts
often entail significant research, and their user communities have
little economic or political voice, script proposals have not been
submitted to the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) in any regular
manner. It has been estimated that at the current slow pace of encoding,
many scripts will still be unencoded in ten years.

The goal of the project is to fund the development of script proposals
that will be successfully approved by the Unicode Technical Committee
without requiring extensive revision or involvement of the committee
itself. A secondary goal for certain scripts is to produce
freely-available fonts, both for publication of the standards and for
end-users. This will help to promote widespread adoption and
implementation of the scripts.

By providing funding for proposal authors, drawn from faculty and
graduate students as well as other experts, the Script Encoding
Initiative represents a concerted effort to tackle the remaining
scripts. The project will be assisted by a Unicode Vice President to
assure that the proposals meet requirements of the Unicode Technical

The Script Encoding Initiative project is of world-wide importance. For
a minority language, having its script included in the universal
character set will help to promote native-language education, universal
literacy, cultural preservation, and remove the linguistic barriers to
participation in the technological advancements of computing. For
historic scripts, it will serve to make communication easier, opening up
the possibilities of online education, research, and publication. For
implementers in the computer industry, the outcome of this project will
provide longer term stability.

Funding will be allocated on a per-proposal basis, depending upon the
logistical complexity of encoding the script. The development of
proposals will entail detailed script research and contact with both
user communities and standardization bodies.

The project is being led by Deborah Anderson, a Researcher in the
Department of Linguistics and contributor to a number of Unicode script
proposals, in conjunction with Unicode Vice President, Rick McGowan.

Donations are welcome. Checks (in U.S. dollars) should be made out to
"UC Regents", with "Script Encoding Initiative" written on the memo
line, and sent to:

        Script Encoding Initiative
        c/o Deborah Anderson
        University of California, Berkeley
        Department of Linguistics
        1203 Dwinelle Hall #2650
        Berkeley, CA 94720-2650

If a letter accompanies the check, it should specify that the money is a
"gift." Donations are tax-deductible in the US within the limits as
prescribed by law; 2% of donations go automatically to the campus
Development Office, as is usual for gifts to the University of
California at Berkeley.

Questions may be directed to Deborah Anderson at the above address, or
by e-mail to:

About the Unicode Consortium

The Unicode* Consortium is a non-profit organization founded
to develop, extend and promote use of the Unicode Standard, which
specifies the representation of text in modern software products and
standards. The membership of the consortium represents a broad spectrum
of corporations and organizations in the computer and information
processing industry. Membership in the Unicode Consortium is open to
organizations and individuals anywhere in the world who support the
Unicode Standard and wish to assist in its extension and implementation.
The consortium is supported financially solely through membership dues.
For additional information on Unicode or the Unicode Consortium, please
visit For information about encoding plans and
scripts not yet suported, please see these pages:

Deborah Anderson
Researcher, Dept. of Linguistics
UC Berkeley

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