Re: Tamil Text Messaging in Mobile Phones

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Fri Jul 26 2002 - 11:31:11 EDT

James Kass <jameskass at worldnet dot att dot net> wrote:

> I only got into this because I didn't want anyone to think that
> we were implying that Tamil writing was currently illogical
> because of an unfortunate choice in jargon.
> <semantic rant>
> (To me, any encoding which isn't visual isn't logical.

This is like talking about "legal" or "legal size" paper, which tends to
imply that any other size is "illegal." (For those of you outside North
America, "legal size" page is 8" 14", as opposed to "letter size"
which is 8" 11".)

On the subject of "logical" vs. "visual" order, I prefer trying to wedge
the term "backing store" into the conversion to avoid the double meaning
of "logical" that James describes.

All writing systems have an order in which they are supposed to be read.
In the Latin script, at least 99.9% of the time, this order matches the
visual order in which characters appear visually on the page. (Not that
this does not necessarily extend to orthographies of human languages
written in the Latin script; consider "silent E" in English, for

This parallel between what is being called "logical" and "physical"
order in Latin is what has made computer implementations over the last
50 years so much simpler than for (e.g.) Tamil, where the reading order
does not match the physical order. The eye needs to jump back and forth
a little more when reading Tamil than when reading English, and likewise
the rendering system has to jump back and forth a little more when
outputting Tamil. Which, of course, is not nearly as easy, and which
leads to reform proposals such as this one.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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