Re: New contribution

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed Apr 28 2004 - 20:02:00 EDT

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    Michael Everson wrote at 12:15 PM on Wednesday, April 28, 2004:

    >Because Hebrew is only *one* of Phoenician's descendants and because
    >there is a requirement to distinguish the two in plain text. There
    >exist Hebrew texts and Greek texts which use this script to display
    >the Tetragrammaton, for instance.

    This can more be more accurately viewed as a font change. It is also an
    argument against your point below that Israeli's could not read a
    newspaper in a Phoenician font - ancient Israelites, reading glyphs
    remarkably similiar to some modern Hebrew glyphs, COULD read the
    Tetragrammaton in archaic glyphs.

    >There exist books which have
    >nothing to do with Hebrew which discuss the Phoenician script qua
    >script. Structural one-to-oneness does not by default exclude a
    >script from being separately encoded. Compare the scripts of India.

    Then why were Chinese, Japanese, and Korean unified? I'm really not
    trying to open a can of worms here, but what explicitly are the triggers
    for script unification in Unicode? If these were clearly spelled out the
    decision should be simple for Phoenician/Hebrew. But if different
    criteria are applied in different scenarios then every situation will
    generate the kind of ongoing discussion we have had about Phoenician/Hebrew.

    >If you wish to represent Phoenician-language text with Hebrew
    >transliteration, nothing prevents you. Plenty of people do. You can
    >transliterate it into Mongolian too. The user community for the
    >Phoenician script is not limited to the set of Semiticists who can
    >read ancient Semitic languages. Phoenician, Greek, and other scripts
    >are often discussed in educational material.

    There is no comparison between looking at characters in a chart and in
    working with, and reading, texts in those characters. You cannot just
    brush off the Phoenician scholarly community, the most important users of
    these characters, nor can you brush off their input on this, so flippantly.

    >To unify Hebrew and Phoenician scripts would be ahistorical at best.
    >A silly unification.

    Not anywhere near as "silly" as CJK unification. The Canaanite script is
    a script continuum spread across Phoenician, Punic, Aramaic, Hebrew,
    Moabite, and Ammonite communities, all sharing a common script origin
    with each developing independently, some more and some less, over the
    centuries. Where one dips ones finger in this stream of continuity and
    pronounces "script dis-unification!" is not an easy thing to do.

    >Phoenician has been on the table for encoding for 12 years.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with how we should proceed in this matter.

    >I am
    >actually astonished to see it suggested that it should be unified
    >with Hebrew.

    I suggest that this is only because you are not an actual reader of
    ancient Canaanite/Aramaic/Hebrew texts.

    >Print a newspaper article in French with Fraktur or
    >Gaelic and people will be able to read it. Print a newspaper article
    >in Georgian with Nuskhuri letters and no one wil be able to read it.
    >Print a newspaper article in Hebrew with Phoenician letters and no
    >one wil be able to read it.

    I'm not so sure. But at any rate, you are comparing the endpoints of this
    script continuum (Phoenician and modern Hebrew). Before you proceed here,
    you'd better decide what criteria you will use to separate out scripts in
    this script continuum or we will be right back here having the same
    discussions over and over again with people who want to distinguish
    between Moabite, Ammonite, Old Aramaic, Imperial Aramaic, Punic, ... in
    plain text.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't encode the "landmarks" in the Canaanite
    script continuum; I'm only saying that expert opinion is needed in
    determining just what those landmarks are, based on some set of agreed
    upon criteria.


    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
    cell: 717 817-4897

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