Re: Major Defect in Combining Classes of Tibetan Vowels

From: John Hudson (
Date: Wed Jun 25 2003 - 17:20:41 EDT

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    At 01:15 PM 6/25/2003, John Cowan wrote:

    >I don't understand how the current implementation "breaks BH text".
    >At worst, normalization may put various combining marks in a non-traditional
    >order, but all alternative orders are canonically equivalent anyway, and
    >no (ordinary) Unicode process should depend on any specific order.

    In Biblical Hebrew, it is possible for more than one vowel to be attached
    to a single consonant. This means that is it very important to maintain the
    ordering of vowels applied to a single consonant. The Unicode Standard
    assigns an individual combining class to every vowel, meaning that NFC
    normalisation may re-order vowels on a consonant. This is not simply
    'non-traditional' but results in incorrect rendering and a different
    vocalisation of the text. The point is that hiriq before patah is *not*
    canonically equivalent to patah before hiriq, except in the erroneous
    assumption of the Unicode Standard: the order of vowels makes words sound
    different and mean different things.

    In order to correctly encode and render the Biblical Hebrew text, it is
    necessary to either a) never use normalisation routines that re-order marks
    (which is beyond the control of document authors), or b) re-classify the
    existing Hebrew marks so that all vowels are in a single class and will not
    be re-ordered during normalisation, or c) encode new marks for Biblical
    Hebrew with all vowels in a single class.

    There are a few other desirable changes to the combining class assignments
    for some Hebrew accents, which make rendering easier and are more
    linguistically logical, but the vowels are the most problematic.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC

    If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores,
    are labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine,
    who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint
    Augustine and Stonehenge -- that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.
                                                                 - Umberto Eco

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