Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: John Hudson (
Date: Thu May 20 2004 - 21:45:05 CDT

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    Kenneth Whistler wrote:

    > A character encoding standard is an engineering construct,
    > not a revelation of truth....


    I begin to suspect that part of the problem -- the problem of interminable debate, not any
    technical problem -- is due in part to different perceptions of the Unicode Standard. It
    must seem pretty obvious to engineers that this is a standard for encoding characters and
    that implementing support for the standard does not, per se, imply much of anything about
    how users should encode text. This is perhaps less obvious to non-engineers -- i.e. to
    users --, and understandably so given the typical representation of Unicode to this
    audience: 'Now supports all the world's major living languages!'. It is evident from the
    Phoenician discussion that a good number of people -- intelligent people, and experts in
    particular fields -- expect UTC decisions on what characters to encode to influence user
    decisions on how to encode specific texts. I don't think this expectation is unreasonable,
    given their perception of the standard, and perhaps Unicode needs to do a better job in
    conveying what the standard is and does and how it can be used.

    There remains, in the Phoenician debate, much fuss about Unicode disunifying what a
    particular set of people consider to be the same thing. Perhaps the point needs to be made
    more strongly that for practical text processing purposes *unification or disunification
    of Phoenician and Palaeo-Hebrew happens only at the point of encoding a particular text*.
    There is no reason at all why Semiticists cannot simply totally ignore the proposed
    Phoenician block. The important question then, it seems to me, is not whether to encode
    Phoenician or not, but how to better communicate that the encoding of a particular set of
    characters does not mean that they have to be used to encode particular texts or languages.

    John Hudson

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