From: Philippe Verdy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue May 04 2004 - 04:24:53 CDT
From: "John Hudson" <email@example.com>
> Philippe Verdy wrote:
> > I thought about missing African letters like barred-R, barred-W, etc... with
> > combining overlay "diacritics" (whose usage has been strongly discouraged
> > Unicode).
> > May be a font could handle theses combinations gracefully with custom glyph
> > substitution rules similar to the automatic detection of ligatures. But may
> > they should not if Unicode will, in fine encode these characters separately
> > without any canonical equivalence with the composed sequence.
> Having spent weeks time researching African orthographies a few years ago, I'm
> think that such barred letters should be separately encoded: they constitute
> letters, not combinations of elements within orthographies such as base
> combining marks.
> A problem, however, is that many such forms are found in unstable
> orthographies, and are difficult to document adequately for inclusion in
This last argument should not be a limitation to encode them. After all they are
used for living languages in danger of extinction, and even if documents using
them are rare, encoding them would help preserving these languages and helping
the development of their litteracy.
Without them, the instability of orthographies will always be a problem favored
by absence of standard to represent them adequately in any encoding or charset,
so that even book publishers and authors will need to use their own
approximations or unstable private conventions to represent them.
The case of Berber (in Latin script) is significant, if you just look at the
number of resources on the web that use various conventions to represent its
alphabet (some hacks use symbols like '$', underscores, middledots,
non-combining diacritics, greek letters...)
Today, a stable encoding for missing letters is the first condition to allow
stabilization of orthographies, a required first step needed to develop
educational contents needed to improve litteracy in the corresponding languages.
This is really needed because electronic forms of texts are the most
cost-effective solution to create and publish texts. Other historic mechanical
solutions cost too much, and they won't be used before a sustainable usage of
electronically composed publications is developped.
For many languages using the Latin script, a very limited number of specific
letters are needed. Encoding them and documenting them will help foundries to
improve their standard electronic fonts to include the few glyphs that are
needed for them. I do think that non-governmental educational organizations
present in Africa to help improve litteracy would find a greater audience if
they could finance the production of educational documents in the native
languages, and not only in a few official languages (most often French, English
and Arabic in Africa) that are still foreign to local populations that feel that
these languages are the languages of the empowered government.
Also, the cultural division between local populations does not help improving
peace in these often troubled regions, and the promotion of culture is certainly
one of the means to give back some power, proudness and freedom to these
populations, as a factor for peaceful coexistence and development.
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