Re: Arid Canaanite Wasteland (was: Re: New contribution)

Date: Sat May 01 2004 - 15:09:08 CST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Kirk" <>
To: "Kenneth Whistler" <>
Cc: <>; <>
Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2004 9:43 AM
Subject: Re: Arid Canaanite Wasteland (was: Re: New contribution)

Peter Kirk wrote,

> Understood. But on the other hand, the lack of a consensus among *any*
> people that they have a need for an encoding does seem to imply that
> there is no need for an encoding. I have yet to see ANY EVIDENCE AT ALL
> that ANYONE AT ALL has a need for this encoding. So I am asking simply
> that the proposer demonstrates that there is SOME community of users who
> actually have a need for this encoding, for plain text rather than
> graphics. I have asked for this over several months. The new proposal
> not only fails to demonstrate this, it indicates that the proposer has
> not even attempted to find any such community of users, because he
> admits to not contacting any user community.

Let's find out how some actual users in the user community deal with
this controversial issue.

Googling for "palaeo-Hebrew" brings us this...

... (it's the second or third "hit", depending on how you count) web
site all about fonts and how they can be used to render Hebrew
text on our computers.

The Evyoni web site uses the good old symbol font to depict the
occasional Greek glyph.

Quoting from the page:
"We also use a font that uses upper ASCII to show Hebrew in the same
manner as "Web Hebrew" fonts (with the same character assignments)
but with added features. Included in the font is transliteration symbols
for Hebrew in two schemes to make it backwards compatible with our
first special font we used on our sites. And instead of using the "square
script" used to represent Hebrew today and over the last few milennia,
we use Palaeo-Hebrew script. Palaeo-Hebrew has been used in the past to
archaize, that is, to preserve a link to an earlier state of things. That is
after all, what we are about, so Palaeo is the perfect script for us to use."

(Note that this site considers "Palaeo" a separate script, this is quite
clear in the paragraph quoted above.)

<some flippancy>
What a simple solution, using upper-ASCII for non-Latin glyph display.

Why, with that novel approach, we could set up our computers to
handle all kinds of script changes by simply changing the font-in-use
to something different!

Let's clean up our act and get in on this band wagon. We could start
with so-called Linear-B. That's just "palaeo-Greek", if one prefers
not to refer to the script of the Greeks as "Linear", for whatever
reason. So, we can deprecate the entire Linear-B range and put
notes in the Standard explaining how Linear-B is actually a glyph
or font variant of Greek. While we're at it, we can do Coptic the
same way, by gosh.

Shoot, if we use that clever upper-ASCII method delineated above,
we can deprecate the Greek range, too.
<end flippancy>

Their home page has a graphic of Hebrew script surrounding a Menorah,
a graphic showing Latin script with diacritics, and a graphic showing
good, old palaeo-Hebrew.

Let's move on to another web page,
...where the author has been criticized for his choice of using
palaeo-Hebrew characters and is responding...

"Lew: YHWH Elohim used palaeo-Hebrew to write the Torah in the
stone tablets, so I stand on my choice of characters with Him. In fact,
most of the prophets wrote in the archaic, primary Hebrew; it was
only during the Babylonian Captivity that the Yahudim took the
"Babylonian Hebrew" characters on -- Belshatstsar needed Daniel to
read this "outlandish and ridiculous" script, because the Babylonians
knew nothing of it. Mosheh, Abraham, Enoch, Dawid, Shlomoh --
these men could not read modern Hebrew; they used that "outlandish
and ridiculous" palaeo-Hebrew script. The Great Scroll of Isaiah
(YeshaYahu) is a copy of the original, and it is on display in the
Shrine of the Book Museum in Yerushaliyim -- the Name is preserved
in its original "outlandish and ridiculous" palaeo-Hebrew script, while
the rest of the text is in modern Hebrew."

Another user heard from who apparently regards Phoenician
and Hebrew as different scripts.

Let's move on again to...
... this PDF which doesn't need to be downloaded because we can
see all we need in the Google blurb:

" ... In most cases he will come across a notation that the personal
name "Yahweh" ( hwhy in palaeo-Hebrew and hwhy in Aramaic script)
has M ... "

It's obvious that the good people at aren't complying with
the upper-ASCII method for displaying non-Latin text in their PDF;
apparently considering that both palaeo-Hebrew and Aramaic script
can best be encoded with regular ASCII.

Moving on,
(Sorry, it's geocities.) ... here's a page all about the Phoenician inscription
of Edessa in Macedonia.

This page shows Phoenician transliterated into Greek, both as the
alphabet and as the inscription which is the focus of the site.
Note that this page doesn't claim that Phoenician should be unified
with Greek, or anything like that. (We couldn't call it
"palaeo-Greek", anyway, we've already used that one for Linear-B.)

Also note that they didn't trouble themselves with posting anything
in modern Hebrew concerning the inscription. Maybe because the
language isn't Hebrew and neither is the script in which it is written?

Sigh, so many pages, so little time. Many of the pages above are rather
interesting to read, too.

It looks like scholars do whatever they have to do to get displays to look
right, without respect to computer encoding principles.

When people bring up the fact that some scholars are encoding
Phoenician text as Hebrew, we need to consider that this could well
be mostly "web-Hebrew" rather than Unicode. Since they're
already masquerading Hebrew as upper-ASCII, we shouldn't be
surprised that they like to masquerade Phoenician that way, too.
It's so much easier and everything.

Imagine going back in time ten years or so and approaching the
user community with the concept of a double-byte character
encoding system which could be used to store and transfer
electronic data in a standard fashion. If they'd responded to
this notion by indicating that their needs were already being
well-served by web-Hebrew, would the Unicode project have
been scrapped?

Should the proposal proceed as planned, or should we bow our heads
to political pressure before burying them in the sands of time?

Viva Punicode!

James Kass

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