Re: Variant selectors in Mongolian

From: John Hudson (
Date: Wed Jul 10 2002 - 20:20:58 EDT

At 16:47 10/07/2002, Kenneth Whistler wrote:

>Mongolian variants *are* very confusing, and I'm not sure what the
>best way to describe them is. Part of the problem is that there is
>still some tension in the UTC regarding just how to define the affect
>of the variation selectors.
>Position A: A variation selector selects a particular, defined glyph.
>That position would, for Mongolian, tend to support your second
>interpretation. However, ...
>Position B: A variation selector selects a variant form of a character,
>which has a distinct rendering from that specified for the character
>without a variant specification.

The inclusion of variant selectors in Unicode uncomfortably blurs the line
between character processing and glyph processing. The only excuse I can
think of for including glyph substitution triggers in plain text is if
there are normative stylistic substitutions to be identified by an author
as a regular aspect of the writing of a given script, i.e. Ken's Position
A. If you are not going to specify what the variant is, what point is there
to including the glyph subsitution trigger in plain text, since you have no
idea what the outcome is going to be in any given font? The value of the
variant selector to the user is in knowing what the result is going to be,
and this means that the variant form *must* be specified. How else can the
variant selector be used to *select* a particular form? Selection implies a
deliberate choice, not a willingness to accept any substitution a font
might provide.

John Hudson

Tiro Typeworks
Vancouver, BC

Language must belong to the Other -- to my linguistic community
as a whole -- before it can belong to me, so that the self comes to its
unique articulation in a medium which is always at some level
indifferent to it. - Terry Eagleton

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