Re: Cuneiform - Dynamic vs. Static

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed Jan 14 2004 - 17:59:55 EST

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    Patrick Durusau wrote at 1:41 PM on Wednesday, January 14, 2004:

    >Actually you omitted from the principal part of your post the one that
    >actually matters the most, that the issue of what model to follow has
    >been discussed, including your model,

    I have not omitted mention of this. You must have missed, or forgotten,
    my recent post titled "Cuneiform Base Signs Plus Modifiers" where I stated:

    >>From the very first Initiative for Cuneiform Encoding conference at Johns
    >>Hopkins University in November 2000, I, along with all others I am aware
    >>of, have accepted unquestioningly the suggestion that we encode the
    >>complex Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform signs as separate code points in Unicode.

    Although remembered now differently by some others (see earlier posts in
    these threads), that is my recollection. When I say "accepted
    unquestioningly", I mean I recall very little debate about the issue at
    the ICE conferences. I recall that it was brought up early on in ICE1 and
    someone, I do not remember who, but I know it wasn't I, said, in effect,
    "No, we should just encode what cuneiformists call SIGNS." My
    recollection is that we all, including me, just said, "Ok, yes - that
    would be the complex signs but not the compound signs."

    And I'm not the only one who recalls minimal discussion on this topic; I
    agree with Karljuergen Feuerherm's recollection of the ICE1 discussion on
    this topic (from a 2001-04-25 email):

    >>In Baltimore [ICE1], we discussed encoding container-and-content signs
    >>(a.k.a. in assyriological parlance inscribed signs) as atomic units vs
    >>encoding them as molecular compositions of container and contents (and
    >>provisionally decided upon the former).

    [Notice his characterization of the decision for a static encoding as

    Also from a 2001-04-26 email from Karljuergen:

    >>Given that the 'consensus' at Baltimore was for the enumerative approach,
    >>I assume (I can't remember) that must have been what we were thinking
    >>then. I do know that several other people (besides me) have thought the
    >>productivity was sufficiently high to warrant a little more evaluation
    >>[of the dynamic approach].

    Back to Patrick:

    >and more importantly, the model to follow has been chosen.

    Surely you are not suggesting that model changes are prohibited during a
    standards process!

    But what makes our model decision so important and what makes Unicode/
    10646 so different from many other standards processes is that we have to
    get it right the first time - there is no backtracking in Unicode. We
    will be stuck with our model decision "forever". [If you don't like some
    aspects of the SGML model, you can just invent XML; but who is going to
    re-invent computer text encoding for the whole world using different models?]

    >The decision was to follow the static model and
    >not your proposed dynamic model.

    This is not MY "proposed dynamic model". According to at least 3 emails
    (from people who actually attended both ICE conferences AND 2 of whom are
    authors of the current static proposal!), that was THEIR preferred model.

    >As a consequence, the recent submission
    >made to the UTC follows the static model.
    >It is not a technical issue but one of process. Standards are developed
    >based on decisions following discussion and debate. Your model has been
    >discussed and was not chosen. As one of the organizers of the two ICE

    I was the only organizer of both ICE conferences.

    >and an active participant in all of those discussions, you
    >are aware of the discussions and the decision to not follow your

    You are incorrectly characterizing what happened. Since you were not
    there, I'm not sure where you are getting your information about all
    "those discussions"?

    And it's because we didn't have all those discussions then that we are
    having them now.

    >To reiterate a proposal in the standards process that was not
    >chosen simply disrupts the standards process.
    >People have invested a lot of time and effort getting the proposal to
    >this point and to abandon it now, is ill-advised and wasteful.
    >Not to
    >mention inconsistent with any orderly notion of standards development.

    Two days worth of work needed to alter the current proposal is not
    "disruptive", "ill-advised", or "wasteful", especially when we have up to
    5 months to finish it.

    And Michael Everson has admitted he could do it in two days; his only
    questions were, "Who is going to pay for those two days?" and is it "a
    good idea to bag the consensus we have on this issue"?

    >At some point decisions have to be made and in this case have been made,
    >on how to proceed.
    >The time has come to proceed.

    You have given NO technical reasons against a dynamic encoding for cuneiform.

    Can you provide any substantiating examples of why your process
    objections are material or compelling in our situation?


    Dean A. Snyder

    Assistant Research Scholar
    Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
    Computer Science Department
    Whiting School of Engineering
    218C New Engineering Building
    3400 North Charles Street
    Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

    office: 410 516-6850

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