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

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Mon May 03 2004 - 12:12:39 CDT

On 02/05/2004 16:26, Michael Everson wrote:

> At 11:06 -0700 2004-05-02, Peter Kirk wrote:
>> Michael Everson, who knows so little Phoenician that he doesn't know
>> how similar it is to Hebrew?
> You are confusing language and script. I am not encoding the
> Phoenician language. ...

No, I am not, despite you and James trying to claim that I am, and
despite your attempt to label a script with the name of just one of the
languages using it, which is not only confusing but historically of
doubtful accuracy. My point was that you cannot claim to be a user of
the Phoenician script if you are not familiar with the Phoenician
language. More accurately I should have said, if you are not familiar
with any of the languages written with the Phoenician script. This group
is (apparently apart from the Edessa inscription just mentioned) a small
set of closely related languages in which you do not seem to be an expert.

> ...I am encoding a set of genetically related scripts with similar
> behaviours, which differ from Hebrew in shape (but which are similar
> in shape themselves) and in function (Hebrew has grown enormously
> complex with its representation. I believe that if you take a pointed
> and cantillated Hebrew text and were to change the "font" to
> "Phoenician" you would end up with something that is, plain and
> simply, utterly wrong.

Well, you would end up with something novel and not widely understood,
just as you would if you used a Fraktur font to display a Vietnamese
text complete with multiple diacritics. You can't stop people encoding
garbage in Unicode if they want to.

> ...
>> Anyone else? Perhaps one or two, and no evidence for a "group". Not
>> nearly as many as want Klingon encoded. Do they have an actual use
>> for the script?
> It is a Universal Character Set. It is not a character set for Certain
> Kinds of Semiticists Who Think That Everything Is Hebrew. The
> Phoenician script has other clients. ...

OK, if you say so, but then, name names, or at least demonstrate the
truth of this statement. According to your proposal, you have not been
in contact with any users of the Phoenician script, but I suppose you
could still know who they are. But then Deborah Anderson has just stated
that she is a user of it, and I know you have had extensive contact with
her. I thought of accusing you of lying in the proposal, but it is
possible that you were unaware that she is a user. I suggest that your
revise your proposal to mention your contact with her, and preferably to
summarise her good reasons for supporting your proposal.

> ... Runic has specialist and non-specialist clients. Gothic has
> specialist and non-specialist clients. Egyptian has specialist and
> non-specialist clients.
> Children learning about the history of their alphabets are arguably
> more important than narrow-minded pendants who think that by bluster
> they can detract us from our goal.

Well then, show us a children's book which uses Phoenician plain text,
rather than a table of glyphs.

> Which is to encode all of the world's writing systems in a Universal
> Character Set.

Including Klingon? Or are there some unstated conditions here that the
writing systems have to be actually in use?

>> Have they demonstrated a need for it or that, if encoded, anyone will
>> actually use it? Surely these are the criteria for encoding a script,
>> not just that one person has asked for it to be encoded and a few
>> have supported him.
> I guess it is just a misapprehension on your part about what you will
> be "forced" to do.
> Let's rehearse it again.
> Most Germanicists prefer to transliterate Gothic text into Latin to
> work with it, to study it, to publish it, to read it. We encoded
> Gothic anyway, because it is a separate script from Greek.
> Most Germanicists prefer to transliterate Runic text into Latin to
> work with it, to study it, to publish it, to read it. We encoded Runic
> anyway, doubtless to the joy of adolescent Dungeons-and-Dragons
> players everywhere.
> Most Semiticists (you claim) prefer to transliterate Phoenician (and
> other language) text into Hebrew (or Latin) to work with it, to study
> it, to publish it, to read it. We should encode the Phoenician
> family of scripts anyway, because
> Your claim that Phoenican is just a subset of Hebrew ignores the
> historical facts of the development of the Hebrew script, in
> particular with regard to the development of related scripts like
> Samaritan. The unification which we did for Phoenician correctly
> rounds up like with like, and leaves specialized branches of the West
> Semitic writing systems (like Hebrew and Samaritan) alone as separate
> scripts.

My claim was not quite this. It was rather that Phoenician can be
treated as subset of Hebrew, and the need to treat it otherwise had not
been demonstrated. I think Deborah's contribution has now come close to
demonstrating that need.

>> "Need" is more than just "want". I am thinking of people who would
>> actually use this encoding, who would prefer to use it, and who are
>> not adequately provided for by existing solutions e.g. using the
>> Hebrew script.
> A font hack is a font hack, ...

Except when Fraktur or Suetterlin are represented with Latin characters
and a special font.

> ...whether the Phoenician glyphs are hacked onto Latin characters or
> whether they are hacked onto Hebrew characters. I have plenty of
> Phoenician fonts hacked onto Latin characters (showing the need for
> developers who are NOT Semiticists, perhaps, to write Phoenician letters)
> But I have said that before.

And proved absolutely nothing thereby, because no one has suggested that
Phoenician fonts with Latin characters are anything but hacks.

>> Well, the only people known to me to support this encoding are
>> members of this list. The proposer has not provided in the proposal
>> the names of anyone else or any other information about anyone else.
> Perhaps I will improve the bibliography. I have abundant text from
> historians of writing systems which clearly distinguish Hebrew and
> Phoenician scripts. Some of those historians of writing systems are
> dead. Some long dead.

That might help, but living users are better than ones long dead.

Peter Kirk (personal) (work)

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