RE: Chinese rod numerals

From: Marco Cimarosti (
Date: Tue Jan 13 2004 - 11:05:34 EST

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    Christopher Cullen wrote:
    > (2) The Unicode home page says: "The Unicode Standard defines
    > codes for characters used in all the major languages [...]
    > mathematical symbols, technical symbols, [...]".
    > I suggest that in an enterprise so universal and
    > cross-cultural as Unicode, the definition of what counts
    > as a "mathematical symbol" has to be conditioned by actual
    > mathematical practice in the culture whose script is being
    > encoded.

    I think that Ken Whistler point was simply this:

            OK, Chinese rod numerals may be symbols, but were these symbols used
    in *writing*?

    Not all symbols are used in writing, and only symbols used in writing are
    suitable to be part of a repertoire of, well, encoding symbols used in

    A flag, a medal, a tattoo, T-shirt may definitely be calle4d "symbols", yet
    Unicode does not need a code point for "Union Jack" or "Che Guevara

    To stick to mathematics, a pellet on an abacus, a key on an electronic
    calculator, or a curve drawn on a whiteboard may legitimately be considered
    symbols for numbers or other mathematical concepts. Yet, Unicode does not
    need a code point for "abacus pellet", or "memory recall key", or "hyperbola
    with horizontal axis", because these symbols are not elements of writing.

    IMHO, in your proposal you should provide evidence that the answer to the
    above question is "yes". I.e., you don't need to prove that these symbols
    were used in Chinese mathematics, but rather that they were used to *write*
    something (numbers, arguably, or arithmetical operations, etc.).

    _ Marco

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