Re: Chromatic font research

Date: Wed Jun 26 2002 - 15:42:06 EDT

On 06/26/2002 12:33:49 PM Sampo Syreeni wrote:

>National flags are a far cry, true. Naval signalling ones perhaps aren't.
>They stand for characters

But that doesn't mean that they themselves are characters. (I can just
imagine: characters for the signals representing the characters that
represent the signals that represent... )

 and I believe in some variations for entire
>well-known concepts. They are utilized in a way we would expect characters
>to be. I don't think the entire collection of flags used around the world
>coincides neatly enough with an already encoded script to be considered
>pure glyph variants. And colors are certainly meaningful in this context.

OK. Twice in the past few days I've held back from writing this: characters
are about text, not pictures. Pictures may be polychromatic, but text is
basically non-chromatic. It's origins are making markings in sand with a
stick, in clay with a stylus, on leaves with a stylus, and later on leather
or paper (i.e. the precursors of paper as we know it today) with a reed pen
or brush dipped in ink (and the ink was somethng dark and inexpensive -- no
concern for colour -- so at most we should say that text is di-chromatic,
with one tone for figure and another for the ground against which it is
set). The eventual use of different colours in manuscripts for runs of
characters or for the appendiges of characters (such as dots) was purely an
artistic add-on; the text itself was independent of colour. It's certainly
nice that we have technologies today that allow us to colour our text,
sometimes even specifying the colour of the outlines and the fills
separately. But that isn't part of the text itself; it's an attribute of
the electronic pen used to draw the text. The text itself remains
colour-neutral, and the colour attributes belong to a level of
representation other than characters.

Sure, pictures have colour, but pictures are not characters. Not even
pictures of things that represent characters. We could invent a system that
uses 4 x 4 matrices of squares each in one of 16 colours with each
configuration representing a different character from a repertoire of up to
256 characters. Should these representations of characters be themselves
encoded as characters? No, IMO.

>(I can't fathom why anyone would want to encode those, though. Anything
>you can do with flags you can do with ordinary characters, only more
>efficiently. However, this could serve as an example of a script which
>relies on color as an essential feature.)

But it isn't a script.

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <>

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