PH as font variant of Hebrew (was RE: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: Peter Constable (
Date: Mon May 24 2004 - 08:17:51 CDT

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    > From: []
    > Behalf Of Peter Kirk
    > Sent: Monday, May 24, 2004 3:08 AM

    > >> As I understand it, what at least a number of Semitic scholars want
    > >> to do is not to transliterate, but to represent Phoenician texts
    > >> Phoenician letters with the Unicode Hebrew characters...

    > > More hearsay! Who has offered any evidence of this? No one. ...
    > Well, Dean Snyder has been saying for some time that he wants the
    > difference between Hebrew and Phoenician to be a font change...

    The issue here is that what you say scholars want to do (viz. encode
    using Unicode Hebrew characters and display with PH glyphs) is already
    technically possible, and so if they *really do* want to do that, then
    it's not unreasonable to expect that they might have attempted to do so.
    But that would imply the existence of such fonts. So, if such fonts do
    not exist, it calls into question whether in fact the claim is true.
    (And if the only PH fonts have glyphs on Latin characters, then the only
    argument they could support would be an argument to unify PH with Latin!
    They otherwise demonstrate nothing except historical practice.)

    > And if you want evidence of use of corresponding glyph to code point
    > mappings for Phoenician/palaeo-Hebrew and square Hebrew fonts, looks
    > the following:

    > set of various Semitic fonts
    > including Phoenician with the same mappings.

    All the fonts I looked at on this site used W Sem glyphs for Latin


    These likewise appear to use Basic Latin characters.

    > palaeo-Hebrew mapped as
    > "Web Hebrew", which is basically ISO 8859-8 visual.

    Now, these are an interesting hodgepodge. Five different fonts, one of
    the square Hebrew (so I'll consider only the others):

    Evyoni Palaeo: encodes PH in the Basic Latin range

    Evyoni Megawriter: encodes PH in the Latin-1 range (and an illegal
    rip-off of Times New Roman, btw)

    Evyoni Hebrew Encoded Palaeo, Evyoni TNRH PalaeoHebrew (two more illegal
    TNR derivatives): Ta da! These actually do encode PH glphs using Unicode
    Hebrew characters.

    So, what does this demonstrate?

    - There is clear evidence that some people want to encode PH glyphs
    using Hebrew characters.

    - It supports the claim that there are Semitic scholars who consider PH
    characters and square Hebrew characters to be the same characters, with
    glyph variants (but we already knew this because some of these people
    have already told us this is their view).

    - If Semitic scholars want to encode PH as Hebrew characters and display
    with a font that uses PH glyphs, they have at least two fonts at their
    disposal (but, oops!, they are illegal fonts, so if they have moral
    integrity they won't use these but will look for others).

    And what does this not demonstrate?

    - That there is no reason to encode Phoenician as a separate script.

    It provides support for that case, but does not make the case on its
    own. There are other factors, notably the needs of users *other* than
    Semiticists. The point has been made by the unification camp more than
    once that encoding PH text using characters other than Hebrew makes it
    harder for Semiticists to search for data. But these people have not
    adequately responded to the counter-arguments (and in so doing have not
    adequately acknowledged the needs of non Semiticists) that

    - they do not need to encode their texts any differently, and in fact in
    a given research project the people involved in the project will most
    likely manage their own data and make sure it is encoded in one way
    according to their preferences (they already have to normalize their
    data to deal with the encoded-as-Hebrew vs. encoded-as-Latin issue);

    - it is not difficult to convert data, or to make retrieval software
    treat separately-encoded PH the same as Hebrew

    - for the non-Semiticist interested in PH but not Hebrew, searching for
    PH data in a sea of Hebrew data (if they are unified) is all but

    I think we can stop debating whether anybody considers PH characters to
    be the same as Hebrew characters, of whether anybody wants to encode PH
    text using Hebrew characters and display it using fonts with appropriate

    I also think we should stop debating whether Phoenician script is a
    distinct script from Hebrew script (talking about the script, not
    encoded characters): it is clear that there is disagreement and that
    opinions are not going to change. The facts are that some consider them
    the same, and that some do not.

    We do not need to debate which view is correct; what we need to do is
    consider how we respond to each of those points of view when it comes to
    developing character encoding standards and IT implementations. And
    those considerations must take into account the needs of all users:
    Semiticists, and non-Semiticists.

    Peter Constable

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