Re: Mongolian Unicoding (was Re: Cuneiform Free Variation Selectors)

From: Andrew C. West (
Date: Wed Jan 21 2004 - 08:58:45 EST

  • Next message: John Jenkins: "Re: Chinese FVS? (was: RE: Cuneiform Free Variation Selectors)"

    On Tue, 20 Jan 2004 16:33:24 -0500, wrote:
    > Andrew C. West scripsit:
    > > These are glyph variants of Phags-pa letters that are used with semantic
    > > distinctiveness in a single (but very important) text, _Menggu Ziyun_ , a
    > > century rhyming dictionary of Chinese in which Chinese ideographs are listed
    > > their Phags-pa spellings. In this one text only, variant forms of the letters
    > > FA, SHA, HA and YA are used contrastively in order to represent historical
    > > phonetic differences between Chinese syllables that were pronounced the same
    > > early 14th century standard Chinese (Old Mandarin).
    > In short, these are like the diacritics used in some English-language
    > dictionaries
    > to mark up English words to show how the vowels are pronounced, except they are
    > "abstract diacritics" rather than shape-based ones.

    Yes, I think that I could agree with that. So in a way the FVS acts as an
    invisible diacritic mark that affects the shape of the character to which it is
    applied. In some contexts you would want to keep the diacritic mark, and in
    other contexts you may want to strip it off or ignore it (e.g. for text
    matching). Thus if I were to make a transcription of the 14th century _Menggu
    Ziyun_ manuscript I would want to preserve the glyph variants for the letters
    FA, SHA, HA and YA, but if I were then to use this data to create a dictionary
    of Phags-pa spellings for Chinese ideographs found in actual Yuan dynasty
    manuscripts and monumental inscriptions I would want to strip off the FVSs, just
    preserving the "base spelling" of the ideographs.

    You might be interested to know that the variant nature of the Phags-pa letters
    FA, SHA, HA and YA is mirrored in the transliteration system for _Menggu Ziyun_
    devised by Professor Junast (China's foremost authority on the Phags-pa script),
    which uses an ordinary letter "j" for the normal Phags-pa letter YA, but a form
    of the letter "j" with a long tail for the variant form of the letter YA; and an
    ordinary letter "h" for the normal Phags-pa letter HA but a crossed "h" [U+0127]
    for the variant form of the letter HA. (He uses U+0161 with subscript 1 and 2 to
    differentiate the normal and variant forms of the Phags-pa letter SHA).


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