Re: Tamil Text Messaging in Mobile Phones

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sun Jul 28 2002 - 20:30:25 EDT

John H. Jenkins <jenkins at apple dot com> wrote:

> OK, now's the time for us all to chant together,
> Deseret! Deseret! Shaw! Shaw! Shaw!
> Deseret! Deseret! Shaw! Shaw! Shaw!

Unicode cheerleaders... hmm...

Deseret and Shavian are great examples of what I was talking about.
Each had advantages over Latin for writing English, to be sure, but
neither was perceived as being "better enough" to justify the costs,
which could have run as high as retraining all literate people and
reprinting (or obsoleting) all existing texts.

The Azeri script reform currently in progress is an interesting case
study. Azerbaijan is faced with a new, sudden, and significant literacy
problem caused by the replacement of Cyrillic with Latin. Latin has
been studied in Azerbaijan schools since 1992, but much of the over-35
population which attended school during the Soviet era knows only
Cyrillic and can no longer read traffic signs, Azeri-language
periodicals, etc. which were rapidly converted to Latin.

The stated reason for the changeover was to "align" Azerbaijan more
closely with the Western, Latin-script world than with the ex-Soviet,
Cyrillic world. It remains to be seen whether the long-term advantages,
political and otherwise, outweigh the long-term costs, but at least in
the short term there appears to be substantial upheaval with little
immediate benefit.

OTOH, as Peter Constable noted, the Turkish script reform from Arabic to
Latin was a great success, but in that case the benefits were high
(Arabic was not well suited for writing the Turkish language) and the
costs were low (low literacy, not exactly an information-age society).

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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