Re: Display of Isolated Nonspacing Marks (was Re: Questions on ZWNBS...)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sun Aug 10 2003 - 04:49:32 EDT

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    On Sunday, August 10, 2003 9:30 AM, Mark Davis <> wrote:

    > > As for oe-ligature, the
    > > French representative to WG3 (or its predecessor) said that France
    > > could live without it.
    > Even worse; the story I heard was that the committee had planned from
    > the start to have Œ and œ in positions D7 and F7, but that late in the
    > process the representative from France objected, so they replaced them
    > by × and ÷. That would certainly explain why these symbols are in the
    > middle of a batch of letters...

    It's true that in French these are really ligatures, and not plain letters,
    meaning that this is mostly a standard typographic convention, rather
    than orthographic. The national AFNOR may have opted for this solution
    thinking that these holes would have benfited for other languages
    commonly used in Europe, and there were probably other candidate
    characters that finally got encoded in a separate ISO-8859-* set.

    I don't know which compromize was taken, but the origin DEC VT set
    also had holes at those positions. It's just strange that the ISO working
    group opted for those two characters at D7 and F7, when there could
    have been a pair of characters coded for Finnish, or Catalan (like the
    dotted L which is still coded with a separate middle dot symbol instead
    of a true diacritic, and that renders quite poorly with ISO-8859-1 and
    even with Windows 1252). Well, French and Catalan writers have lived
    with those encoded sequences, and fixed the rendering using ligating
    rules in their renderers or fonts (or used the oe/OE ligatures in

    I just suspect that the French objection on oe/OE was related to the
    fear of modifying keyboards that were previously created based on
    the French version of ISO646, where such ligature could not be coded.
    Since then, the AFNOR version of ISO646-FR has been simplified to
    remove the tricky combining sequences built with BACKSPACE,
    like C+BACKSPACE+COMMA to code a C WITH CEDILLA, as they
    were no longer necessary with a more universally used 8-bit set (7-bit
    sets have survived only within Teletex/Videotex standards, built in
    accordance with ISO646 with SS2 sequences to encode non-spacing
    diacritics *before* the base character with which they combine, to
    match the keyboard input order based on dead keys for combining
    diacritics, and this 7-bit set is probably the only one remaining in
    large use today for French, with ISO646-FR now nearly extinct
    in favor of ISO646-US/ASCII)

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