Re: New contribution

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Tue May 04 2004 - 17:05:25 CDT

Mark Davis wrote at 8:22 PM on Monday, May 3, 2004:

>- There is a cost to deunification. To take an extreme case, suppose that we
>deunified Rustics, Roman Uncials, Irish Half-Uncial, Carolingian Minuscule,
>Textura, Fraktur, Humanist, Chancery (Italic), and English Roundhand. All
>very different shapes. Searching/processing Latin text would be a nightmare.
>- There is also a cost to unification. To take an extreme case, suppose we
>unified Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, and Hebrew (after all, they have a
>common ancester). Again, nightmare.
>So there is always a balance that we have to strike, looking at each
>carefully and assessing a number of different factors.

Very well put. I think it would be a really interesting paper that would
explicitly delineate just what "different factors" have been players and
what have been decisive in the past and perhaps venture what factors
should be in the future.

>. I want to be clear; I was not in principle against encoding Phoenician, nor
>was I in principle in favor of encoding it -- the proposal simply did not set
>out the pros and cons of different approaches. While tedious in the
>extreme, the
>resulting conversation still has shed some needed light on the situation.
>all, it *is* unifying as it says "Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite, Punic,
>Neo-Punic, Phoenician proper, Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician papyrus,
>Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew seals, Ammonite, Moabite, Palaeo-Hebrew",

Again, Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite simply do not belong in this list.

>but not unifying
>these with modern Hebrew (and I'm not sure where the cut-off point in the
>history of Hebrew is). Making such choices require explanation.

In gross terms, I would characterize the watershed events in "scripts"
used to write Hebrew as:

1) adoption of the Canaanite/Phoenician alphabet

2) adoption, around the time of the Babylonian exile, of Imperial Aramaic
script (coupled with some portions of the Hebrew Bible itself being
written in Aramaic)

3) adoption of the various supra-consonantal vowel and accent systems

Each of these steps took place at intervals of hundreds of years, and all
are, in current practice, unified. That is not to say that they should
necessarily stay that way. But dis-unification does have its costs, some
of which I alluded to in previous emails, and some, closely related to
your "Latin nightmare" scenario mentioned above.


Dean A. Snyder

Assistant Research Scholar
Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
Computer Science Department
Whiting School of Engineering
218C New Engineering Building
3400 North Charles Street
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

office: 410 516-6850
cell: 717 817-4897

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