Re: Nice to join this forum....

From: John Hudson (
Date: Tue May 04 2004 - 10:55:57 CDT

Philippe Verdy 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.

You misunderstand me. I was not indicating the scarcity of documents (although that can
also be a problem), and I certainly wasn't suggesting that documentation problems should
impede encoding. I'm talking about unstable orthographies, such that the documents you may
have -- even as recent as thirty years ago -- do not necessarily reflect current usage in
the country in question. Some African countries have strong language standardisation
organisations, e.g. Ghana, but in others orthographies are being developed by individual
linguists and missionary translators, and there may be competing orthographies and
disagreement over which should be adopted as official. On the one hand, one can make the
argument that anything that is used or has been used in documents should be encoded --
which is also the approach I would favour --, but then you are likely to get African
governments asking 'Why did you encode that? We don't use that. It isn't official.' You
also get software developers coming along wanting to know what they need to support for a
given language, and you can't give them a clear answer because the orthographies are
unstable. Again, none of these factors prevent encoding of new characters, but it is a
good idea to be aware of the uncertainty in the writing of many African languages, and
prepared to respond to queries or objections regarding specific characters.

John Hudson

Tiro Typeworks
Vancouver, BC
I often play against man, God says, but it is he who wants
   to lose, the idiot, and it is I who want him to win.
And I succeed sometimes
In making him win.
              - Charles Peguy

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