Re: Phoenician Unicode Proposal: Expert Feedback Requested

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 10:02:05 CDT

Reinhard G. Lehmann wrote at 7:37 PM on Tuesday, May 4, 2004:

>I myself would never use them, even for teaching, because students
>should not learn a certain 'polaroid' of a specialized Phoenician
>script, but the structures of that kind of Northwest Semitic linear
>alphabetic script and the general parameters and regularities of its
>Phoenician, South Canaanite (including Hebrew), and Aramaic branches of
>the first millenium BCE.

I agree very strongly with the substance of this view that students and
researchers should continue working with all the various glyphs
representative of the "Northwest Semitic linear alphabetic script".
(Although I do believe that Phoenician, and other ancient fonts, do have
their utility.) And I know, of course, that this glyph argument does not
bear directly on computer encodings, which are concerned with the
abstract characters underlying those glyphs. But Lehmann's statement here
highlights something very important about the modern day usage of these
"scripts" that may not be obvious to, and may be overlooked by, encoders
unfamiliar with the discipline - the ancient documents in this script are
typically all studied TOGETHER, with a very high degree of cross-
pollinating research taking place. The languages are similar, the
diascripts are similar, and there are pervasive political, cultural,
linguistic, and religious interactions over the centuries between the
geographically proximate users of this script. That's why we study them
TOGETHER, and why there are many degree-granting programs around the
world in Northwest Semitics. It's the COMBINATION of these factors, along
with others previously mentioned, that causes one pause when confronted
with an attempt to dis-unify this script into separately encoded
Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic, Samaritan, etc.

As just one, albeit shining, example of how interwoven this research
arena can be, one could peruse the monumental J. Hoftijzer and K.
Jongeling "Dictionary of the North-West Semitic Inscriptions", <http://>. (I know there are examples of
multi-lingual dictionaries that unify, across different script systems,
lexeme representation via transliteration; the difference here is that
the material covered was written in one script, that evolved only
gradually over time and place.)


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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