Ciphers (Was: Berber/Tifinagh)

From: John Hudson (
Date: Sun Nov 09 2003 - 22:18:03 EST

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    At 05:47 PM 11/9/2003, Curtis Clark wrote:

    >>I've given a lot of thought to transliteration and transcription at the
    >>glyph level:
    >Which comes back to the issue of ciphers. It would seem to me that
    >glyph-level transliteration is the accepted behavior for ciphers (else we
    >would actually have to address whether such things as Theban should be
    >encoded, and Braille would have been a non-issue from the get-go). What
    >determines whether a script is a cipher of another?

    I offer this:

    Any sign can be made a cipher by changing the signified. Writing systems
    are collections of conventional signs, which means that there is
    conventional agreement as to the signified. For example, the signifier 'A'
    is conventionally agreed by users of Latin script languages to signify the
    signified 'Latin uppercase letter A'. Users of Greek, Cyrillic, etc.
    writing systems conventionally agree on different although historically
    related sign relationships for the same signifier: so the Greek Alpha is
    not a cipher of the Latin A, because its principle conventional association
    is with a Greek letter. A cipher occurs when either 1) a signifier is
    associated with something other than its conventional signified, or 2) the
    signifier is associated with a signified that is conventionally associated
    with a different signifier. The Theban cipher is an example of the latter:
    these are a collection of signifiers that are associated with signified
    that are conventionally associated with other signifiers, e.g. 'Latin
    uppercase letter A'.

    In Unicode terms, one could say that Unicode encodes what is signified as
    characters, and these are signified, conventionally or otherwise, by glyph
    signifiers. So there is no point in encoding the Theban cipher because its
    signified are already encoded as Latin characters.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC

    I sometimes think that good readers are as singular,
    and as awesome, as great authors themselves.
                                           - JL Borges

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