Re: Phoenician (was, Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?; was, Archaic-Greek/Palaeo-Hebrew; was, interleaved ordering; was, Phoenician)

From: Ted Hopp (
Date: Thu May 20 2004 - 08:13:15 CDT

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    On Wednesday, May 19, 2004 9:11 PM, John Jenkins wrote:

    > You go down to your local cybercafe to read your email from your
    > grandmother telling you all about your nephew's bar-mitzvah.
    > Unfortunately, your local cybercafe has no modern Hebrew (or Yiddish)
    > installed, but they *do* have a Phonecian one. You cannot, as a
    > result, even tell what language your grandmother is writing you in, let
    > alone what it means.

    Of course, the same thing would likely happen if there was only a Rashi font

    > Of course, this criterion is difficult to apply to two varieties of
    > writing separated by thousands of years -- and it might behoove the UTC
    > to discuss the problems involved -- but if we accept minimum legibility
    > as a factor in deciding when to unify/separate, I think it's a valid
    > one.

    Minimum legibility? Among what population?

    By this logic, Rashi script should be separately encoded as well. An Israeli
    friend of mine says (only half jokingly) that he can read Hebrew words in
    Rashi script, but doesn't know any of the letters.

    Phoenician (k'tav ivri) may not be quite as widely recognized as Rashi
    script, but I've always thought of both of them as using the same set of
    characters, just different glyph sets--same letter names, same phonetic
    values, even the same word spellings. (I find it remarkable that the
    Phoenician proposal states that none of the characters can be considered to
    be similar in function to an existing character.) If Rashi and k'tav ivri
    aren't legible to many, this is really only due to unfamiliarity with the
    glyphs--much the same problem that young children have with cursive writing
    (in English as well as in Hebrew).

    So I don't get it. Why does Phoenician need its own Unicode encoding? What's
    the operational need that can't be met by using Hebrew characters with the
    right font? Why is "render this in k'tav ivri" any different than "render
    this in Rashi script?" Is it just that when the glyphs are different enough,
    it becomes a good idea to encode them as separate characters, or is there
    more to it? And if there is no difference, are we to look forward to a Rashi
    script proposal? Surely not.

    There is a surfeit of proof by forceful assertion on both sides of this
    argument. Very little by way of clear rationale. (And saying "it's in the
    roadmap" just begs the question.)


    Ted Hopp, Ph.D.
    ZigZag, Inc.

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