Re: Nice to join this forum....

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Tue May 04 2004 - 10:19:22 CDT

Philippe Verdy <verdy underscore p at wanadoo dot fr> wrote:

>> A problem, however, is that many such forms are found in unstable
>> orthographies, and are difficult to document adequately for inclusion
>> in proposals.
> 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.

This is expressly NOT a goal of Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646: to encode
newly invented, possibly ephemeral, letters on the basis that doing so
might encourage literacy and save a language from extinction.

As someone once said -- I don't know who, but it sounds like John
Cowan -- we already have several hundred Latin letters in Unicode; it
shouldn't be difficult to pick one of those when developing a new
orthography, instead of inventing yet another way to write [tʃ].

The danger of encoding novel characters on speculation that they might
be useful is that if they *don't* turn out to be useful, or if a revised
version of the orthography replaces them with something else, Unicode
and 10646 are stuck with unwanted characters, which cannot be removed
for stability reasons.

The Euro sign is a classic counterexample where strong promises of
stability and usefulness (which have been amply borne out) outweighed
the "newly invented" nature.

See the Principles and Procedures document for more information.

> 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.

This is a problem; in an increasingly Unicode world, it is more
difficult than ever to print and interchange one's characters if they
are *not* in Unicode. But the burden should still be on the proponents
of such a character to prove that it is in actual, stable use, and that
the need to print and interchange is real. Otherwise, it's PUA time.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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