Re: Tamil Text Messaging in Mobile Phones

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Fri Jul 26 2002 - 11:47:07 EDT

Peter_Constable at sil dot org> wrote:

>> Isn't this kind of a Catch-22 for anyone contemplating script reform?
> Of course. Part of the problem is what the status of the proposed
> script reform. Is it a single company or perhaps an individual
> suggesting that the country should change? Then the likelihood of
> success is (all other things being equal) low. Is it a government
> mandate? Then the likelihood of success is high. It may be anywhere in
> between.
> I'd suggest that the IT industry probably is not the appropriate forum
> within which to introduce writing system reforms. Probably, that
> should happen in government-related bodies, in schools and various
> other contexts before it reaches IT. If a government is backing it,
> then they can make proposals to relevant IT standards bodies, and
> those proposal could be weighed by the standards bodies by how
> committed the government in question is to the change. But there is
> too much risk involved if someone attempts to use technology or a
> technology product as the vehicle by which to introduce proposed
> changes.

Just to follow up on that briefly, since Peter put it so well...

The Euro symbol is the ultimate example of a newly created character
that deserved immediate standardization in Unicode, because its popular
success was guaranteed. By that I do not mean "popularity," in the
sense that people love the symbol in their hearts. For all I know, they
may still be making fun of it and designing alternatives. But the
"success" of the symbol was a certainty, because the European Commission
had the authority to impose it.

In contrast, the proposed Tamil reform might be a wonderful idea, might
improve Tamil literacy, might result in many more implementations of
Tamil in computers. Or it might not do any of that, because it might
not be adopted. A quick check through the hundreds of proposals for
English spelling reform suggests that, no matter how much of an
improvement the proposed reform might bring, there is no guarantee such
a reform will succeed.

As Peter said, again very well, orthographic reform is not a bad thing,
such that Unicode or anyone else should be "discouraging" it, but it
must be taken up at a governmental or academic level to ensure a
sufficient measure of popular success to justify encoding it.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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