Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: Mark E. Shoulson (
Date: Mon May 24 2004 - 07:47:05 CDT

  • Next message: Dean Snyder: "Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?"

    Peter Kirk wrote:

    > On 22/05/2004 19:41, Mark E. Shoulson wrote:
    >> Peter Kirk wrote:
    >>> The fear is rather that a few people, who are not true Semitic
    >>> scholars, will embrace the new range, and by doing so will make
    >>> things much harder for the majority who don't need and don't want
    >>> the new encoding. One of the original purposes of Unicode was to
    >>> move away from the old situation in which many different
    >>> incompatible encodings were used for the same language and script.
    >>> We don't want to get back into that situation.
    >> That's awfully elitist, isn't it? "Some *non*-scholars want it (if
    >> they'll embrace it, it follows that they'd want it if offered), but
    >> we can't be swayed by the desires of the hoi polloi." Non-scholars
    >> get to use Unicode too, and have a right to influence what gets in
    >> it. Just because the userbase isn't the people you thought it would
    >> be doesn't mean they don't count.
    > My intention here is not elitist but democratic, to consider the
    > requirements of the majority of people who actually use the scripts in
    > question. Hoi polloi (Greek: the majority) don't actually use
    > Phoenician script. Semitic scholars do. A rather small number of other
    > people do. I am suggesting that we look for the views of the majority
    > of those who actually use the script. And of the views expressed on
    > this list by actual users, or reported here with specific names and
    > details, I see a majority for unifying Phoenician with Hebrew. In fact
    > I think only two actual users have favoured non-unification, Deborah
    > Anderson and George Khalaf, plus Michael if he is really a user
    > himself. But several users, Semitic scholars, have favoured unification.

    We've been through this: it isn't about who's the majority. If the
    majority wants one thing and there is a significant *minority* that
    wants the other, Unicode has to go with the minority. Otherwise we'd
    just all stick with US-ASCII. Unicode is supposed to be universal, not
    a servant of the majority alone.

    You can't have it both ways: if, as you admit, there are likely to be a
    fair number of people who will use Phoenician--people, not necessarily
    scholars with publications in all the right journals--that indicates
    that there *is* a potential userbase, and thus there are people who
    would be served by it. The fact that there are people who would be
    served by it indicates that Unicode should provide it. That there are
    other people who would not be served by it is neither here nor there.

    >> ...
    >> I don't think the "majority vs. one or two malcontents" picture that
    >> you're drawing here is even vaguely reminiscent of reality.
    > I don't claim an overwhelming majority. But even if it is only four to
    > three, that is still a majority.

    Four to three is an excellent reason to listen to the three. Or else we
    could all just take a vote and see if CJK or Latin should be the *only*
    alphabet we encode. After all, the others are just minorities. And
    you're telling me you're not being elitist? Listen to yourself.

    Besides, this is hardly a representative sampling. I'm sure both sides
    could find more supporters; nobody's polled the entire pool of
    Semiticists in the world (and even if they had, as you said yourself,
    there are non-Semiticists who will use Phoenician--*and their needs must
    be considered too*). There is no reason to believe that the minuscule
    sample we've seen in any way reflects the actual division of opinion,
    except that we *can* assume that our informants do not speak only for
    themselves and thus there is at least some support on both sides of the

    I can't believe you're saying that four scholars vs. three scholars
    means we have to disregard the needs of the three; I'm completely
    flabbergasted by that.

    Anyway, didn't you yourself say that once you heard from Deborah
    Anderson, you saw that there was in fact a need for this, and that
    removed your objections to the proposal? Why the change of position?


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