A few years ago I asked about the way variant selectors are supposed to work
with Mongolian. In Unicode 3.2 there is an general explanation of variant
selectors, with a table of Mongolian variants. I must confess they left me
confused: it seems to me that the general explanation would point to one
solution which I would call intuitive, character-based (and, in the few
applications I have seen, existent), while the table would do it exactly the
other way around, and be more or less glyph-based.
Simply put, my question is: are the variant selectors to be used only when a
particular character is to be displayed with a glyph which is an exception
to the general rules of Mongolian writing, OR is the variant selector always
to be used with a particular glyph variant in a particular position, whether
that glyph is predictable or not?
To give an easy example (I suppose most (all?) cases would be similar):
In Mongolian, a medial "n" is regularly displayed with a dot before a vowel,
and without a dot before a consonant.The "n" in "ana" would be dotted (as
would be the "n" in initial "na"), the "n" in "anda" would not. A typical
Mongolian application would display those variants automatically, of course.
However, there are a few words/cases (foreign names, place names, or
actually grammar books when explaining Mongolian orthography etc.) where
this rule breaks down; for the ease of argument, let's say there is a word
"aNda" where the "n" would be dotted (I write "N" here for the unexpected
case). In a typical Mongolian application, the user would have to make a
special effort (different key/variant) to get at the right display. In
theory also an undotted "n" in "aNa" might occur.
(For some real examples, see
http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~corff/im/MLS/trans003.gif where the capital
characters are used, as here, for irregular formations.)
Now, if "/" would be a sign of the variant selector, and "N" the sign of the
unexpected variant of "n", I would have expected the variant selector to be
used only in the unexpected cases, i.e., "N" would have the encoding "n-/".
Regular "ana" and "anda" would be unmarked (even if they display the "n"
with different glyphs), irregular "aNa" and "aNda" would be encoded
"a-n-/-a" and "a-n-/-d-a" (again, even if the "n-/" sequence would denote
The statement "For example, in languages employing the Mongolian script,
sometimes a specific variant range of glyphs is needed for a specific
textual purpose for which the range of "generic" glyphs is considered
inappropriate" could be taken to mean this solution.
However, the Mongolian table is very glyph-based, and says "The valid
combinations are exhaustively listed and described in the following table."
It seems to imply that medial dotted "n" is ALWAYS denoted by "n-/" (as is
undotted initial "n"). That is, regular "ana" (dotted) would be "a-n-/-a",
regular "anda" would "a-n-d-a" (undotted), irregular "aNa" would be encode
"a-n-a" (undotted), and irregular "aNda" (dotted) would be "a-n-/-d-a". That
is, there would be regular formations marked with the variant selector, and
irregular ones unmarked.
Which of the two cases is meant by Unicode?
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