Date: Sun May 09 2004 - 22:52:30 CDT
The author of the web site "A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia"
( http://phoenicia.org )
has kindly given permission for his response to a request for comments
on the Phoenician proposal to be forwarded to Unicode's public list.
forwarded message follows...
Thank you for visiting "A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia" and for taking the
time to write such a kind yet very important message.
I am indebted to you for having alerted me to this bit of information. I
was aware the the proposal was underway though I had never had a chance to
read it. Further, I was unaware of the attempt to smother Phoenician script
by not allowing it to have its unique and separate Unicode identity.
No one can deny that the modern Hebrew script is very useful in "dealing"
with Phoenician script in the computer world. However, Hebrew is not the
only medium script-wise which can be useful for Phoenician, in fact, Aramaic
script as well as its Syriac branch are useful too. Many scholar find
western Aramaic to be relatively modern Phoenician. Further, as far as I am
concerned, I find it much easier for me to read Phoenician using the
Phoenician script than to read it using Hebrew. I cannot recognize all the
Hebrew characters while I can easily see Latin characters in the Phoenician
With due respect to Hebrew, I believe that it must not substitute Phoenician
in the computer medium. Phoenician Canaanite is separate, unique and
independent of any language, despite its similarities with many ancient
languages of the Middle East.
I believe one of the strongest points made in the proposal is this:
> Phoenician is quintessentially illustrative of the historical problem of where
> to draw lines in an evolutionary tree of continuously changing scripts in use
> over thousands of years. The twenty-two letters in the Phoenician block may be
> used, with appropriate font changes, to express Punic, Neo-Punic, Phoenician
> proper, Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician papyrus, Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew
> seals, Ammonite, Moabite, and Palaeo-Hebrew. The historical cut that has been
> made here considers the line from Phoenician to Punic to represent a single
> continuous branch of script evolution.
The objection and use of Hebrew instead of the Phoenician script reminds of
the problem Champolion was faced with when he was trying to decipher
Egyptian Hieroglyphics. He had access to the Coptic language which is the
closest to ancient Egyptian. However, at some point in time, Coptic books
were not anymore written in Egyptian Hieroglyphics but in Greek; therefore,
Egyptian was forgotten as a written medium.
Refusing to encode Phoenician and using Hebrew is an intellectual crime
against the Phoenician heritage and history which I very strongly condemn.
I have already planned and started to contact my colleagues in the Aramaic,
Coptic and Syriac computer community to lobby their support in approving the
unicoding of the Phoenician script.
Regretfully, I am not experienced or seasoned in the machination of lobbying
support among scholars of this field but I will do my best so to do, thanks
My site, a labor of love for preserving and disseminating information about
my heritage, is continuously growing with new materials as time permits.
Salim* George Khalaf, Byzantine Phoenician Descendent
* perhaps from Shalim, Phoenician god of dusk
"A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia" ? Encyclopedia Phoeniciana
Center for Phoenician Studies
Chapel Hill, NC
> Your wonderful web site is keeping me on-line! Thank you so much
> for making all of this information available on the World wide web.
> There's currently a proposal before ISO/Unicode to encode the
> ancient Phoenician script so that it can have a unique range in
> the World's standard for the computer encoding of text.
> Interested scholars and users are invited to review this proposal
> and comment upon its merits.
> Objections have been raised to this proposal by some scholars that
> the ancient Phoenician writings should be encoded on computers
> using the modern Hebrew script range, and that Phoenician writing
> doesn't need to have its own computer encoding range because there
> is no need to be able to distinguish between modern Hebrew writing
> and ancient Phoenician writing in computer plain text.
> There has been a lively discussion about this on the Unicode public
> mailing list recently. The author of the proposal has said that the
> proposal will be revised. This is why it is important that scholars and
> other users voice their opinions and why I am writing you. If you
> have any opinions about this and would like to respond, your response
> would be most welcome and would be forwarded to the responsible
> people. If you know of anyone interested who would like to
> offer an opinion, please feel free to forward this message along.
> The current proposal is on-line in PDF format at:
> The Unicode public list is open to anyone who joins, as the name
> suggests. It is archived openly and more information can
> be found at:
> James Kass
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