Re: Ciphers (Was: Berber/Tifinagh)

From: John Hudson (
Date: Mon Nov 10 2003 - 14:17:05 EST

  • Next message: John Cowan: "Re: Handy table of combining character classes"

    At 04:59 AM 11/10/2003, John Cowan wrote:

    >I fear that all this talk of signifiers and signifieds (a very un-English
    >construction, that "signifieds") misses the point of ciphers. A cipher
    >of the relevant type (a "substitution cipher", technically) is a mapping
    >of the usual symbols in a text or set of texts to other symbols WITH
    >THE INTENT OF SECRECY. That is why Theban is a cipher, and so is the
    >venerable "pig-pen", and Masonic Samaritan; but the ecclesiastical use
    >of Samaritan is not, nor are

    But you can't make a solid case for rejecting encoding of a cipher on the
    basis of 'the intent of secrecy'. What about ciphers that are developed
    without the intent of secrecy? Would you encode those? What about
    non-cipher scripts developed with the intent of secrecy -- e.g. traditional
    women's scripts, or initiate scripts for ceremonial languages -- would you
    reject those?

    Philippe's suggestion of displaying Tifinagh characters with Latin glyphs
    is not with the intent of secrecy, but it is still employing Latin as a
    cipher of Tifinagh. So I don't think I've missed the point of ciphers at
    all: a cipher is a particular sign arrangement in which one set of
    signifiers is substituted for another; the intent is irrelevant.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC

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

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Nov 10 2003 - 15:13:18 EST