Re: Phoenician and software development

From: saqqara (
Date: Fri May 21 2004 - 21:35:23 CDT

  • Next message: James Kass: "Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?"

    From: "E. Keown"

    > Elaine Keown
    > Tucson
    > Dear Bob Richmond:
    > At last, a helpful suggestion!!!
    > > 4. Many users of ancient scripts are not specialists
    > > in all (or any) of the scripts they want to work
    > > with. Software needs to recognise this and provide
    > This is true---absolutely. But since all of the early
    > sets of glyphs are so variable, I really don't see how
    > adding a 3rd 22-letter script would help.
    > Unicode already has FOUR Semitic alphabetic blocks
    > already: TWO 22-letter Semitic scripts and TWO 28/29
    > letter Semitic scripts....
    > > If 'Phoenician' really is not a distinctive script,
    > > contrary to appearances, what we need is a fully
    > > reasoned argument for this and a proposal for how
    > > Phoenician should be treated as a variant of the
    > > Hebrew script in Unicode applications.
    > > Is one of the proponents of this view
    > > prepared to produce a document for discussion before
    > > June 7th?
    > This is an interesting idea.
    > But first, I would like to hear from Bob Richmond
    > about why he thinks Phoenician needs more than, say, 6
    > fonts. That's what I don't get at all.

    Thanks for the comments. I'm not quite sure what you are asking.

    Certainly a handful of fonts representing different shapes used in various
    developments of what is talked about here as the Phoenician script (family).
    appears to be useful, irrespective of how the script is coded. Not to ignore
    the issues of epigraphy associated with the source material and the
    importance of facsimile, conventions used by specialists etc. all of which
    are considerations for software. I don't think this is a controversy here on
    the list.

    Specialised software will want to distinguish between say Early Phoenician
    and Punic so will unavoidably dance the font/script shuffle and do a bunch
    of other tech stuff it will hopefully abstract or hide in such a way that
    the user or reader is spared the technical complications. In that sense, all
    that matters is there exist an agreed standard (or standards) people can
    code their fonts and data to. A separate script, unification with Archaic
    Greek/Syriac/Latin/Hebrew what have you. Such software ideally ought to also
    support transliterations used by scholars into Latin, Hebrew, Sanskrit or
    whatever else is popular or useful.

    Non-specialist software on the other hand relies heavily on Unicode and
    other standards such as OpenType (for fonts). Although I could make a
    'transliteration font' that displayed an aleph for a, beth for b etc. a
    general purpose Word processor, or Web browser would still regard these as a
    and b whatever they look like (eg for spell checking, searching and the
    like). Unicode attempts to avoid the ensuing problems in this (one time
    unavoidable) kind of make do and mend approach by distinguishing scripts.
    Apologies to the list for treading such familiar territory.

    So the question is what script to use for Phoenician, not what font or
    fonts. At face value a Phoenician script in its own right appears less
    subject to confusion in character shapes and semantics than a unification
    with one of the assigned Semitic scripts. Realistically, a well argued case
    would be needed to establish otherwise going by the overall response to the


    > There are hundreds of fonts for English, and computer
    > manufacturers support all of them.
    > There are dozens of fonts for Hebrew. And computer
    > manufacturers support some of them.
    > If 6 good fonts for Phoenician are developed, most
    > universities would purchase one and install it.
    > Voila, Phoenician for the <1% of students that care.

    > Elaine

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