Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Mon May 24 2004 - 10:41:12 CDT

  • Next message: Michael Everson: "Re: ISO 15924"

    On 24/05/2004 05:47, Mark E. Shoulson wrote:

    > ...
    > 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.

    Well, I have two points here:

    1) If a *significant* minority wants a proposal which doesn't have
    adverse effects on the majority, fine. But I question whether just two
    or three supporters is *significant* enough for a separate standard
    encoding rather than PUA.

    2) If group A supports a proposal which will have *adverse* effects on
    group B, then, in my opinion, the proposal should only be accepted if
    group A is significantly larger than group B.

    > 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 ...

    I have never accepted this position. I have seen no evidence that more
    than two or three people will use Phoenician. But that still means that
    some people will use it and confuse things for everyone else. It's just
    like Klingon. You and a few others wanted to use it. No one else did.
    But if it had been defined and your small group had started to publish
    widely with it, it would have made things more difficult for those who
    preferred Klingon in Latin script. For example, they would have to do
    double searches of the archives of Klingon publications for the articles
    they wanted.

    > ...
    >> 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.

    I have listened to the three, or mostly to one of the three (and a few
    people like you who support him but are not users) patiently and
    repeatedly for the last month or more. All I have heard are the same
    unconvincing arguments and appeals to his own authority. There is no
    consensus that this Phoenician proposal is necessary. I and others have
    also put forward several mediating positions e.g. separate encoding with
    compatibility decompositions and with interleaved collation, also
    encoding as variation sequences, but the only response I get amounts to
    "No, because Phoenician is a separate script, because I say so and this
    is the right thing to do".

    > 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 issue.

    Agreed. Several people have tried to get broader input, but with little
    success because few on either side understand the issues.

    > 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.

    I am not disregarding the needs of the three. But the three, or one of
    them, insist that the needs of four (and probably considerably more)
    must be disregarded, and won't even discuss mediating positions. And
    they aren't even the majority. 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?

    Yes, you are right, I did say that. It is the continued bad arguments of
    those in favour of the proposal, "fanning the flames of argument by
    saying the same thing over and over again", which have made me
    reconsider, because I refuse to associate myself with their positions.
    Anyway, I don't think I ever accepted that Phoenician should be entirely
    separated from Hebrew, but I accepted that a good argument could be made
    for separate encoding with interleaved collation. That remains my position.

    On 24/05/2004 06:09, James Kass wrote:

    > ...
    >And we get back to the gist. Is it a separate script? Would it be
    >fair to ask for documentation that the ancient Phoenicians who used
    >the script considered it to be a variant of modern Hebrew? (No, it's
    >not a fair question at all. But, I think it's an appropriate question.)
    Well, if you asked the ancient Phoenicians this question, of course they
    would have said "yes" because the script used in their time for Hebrew
    was very similar to their own script. The change to square script took
    place only after the Phoenicians had more or less lost their identity in
    their original homeland, although it was still used for a few centuries
    in and around Carthage.

    >Also, I'm having trouble understanding why Semitic scholars wouldn't
    >relish the ability to display modern and palaeo-Hebrew side-by-side
    >in the same plain text document. And, even if *all* Semitic scholars aren't
    >jumping at the chance, why the heck would they want to prevent it?
    >Best regards,
    >James Kass
    On 24/05/2004 06:17, Peter Constable wrote:

    > ...
    >> 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.

    Thank you, Peter, for checking on these fonts, and for providing for us
    all the evidence that Michael was asking Dean for, that there does exist
    fonts with "Phoenician" glyphs for Unicode Hebrew characters. Very
    likely these font developers were simply confused by the licensing rules
    for Times New Roman.

    >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).

    Well, these Ebionites are not scholars but a revival of an ancient sect
    somewhere midway between Judaism and Christianity. Of course scholars
    are free to use their fonts, if copyright permits.

    So one thing which this does demonstrate is that there is a community of
    users other than scholars who are currently encoding paleo-Hebrew texts
    with Hebrew characters.

    >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);

    But no one has answered my case about searching the Internet or other
    sets of texts from various sources.

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

    If this is not difficult, will Microsoft provide such conversion or
    retrieval software, e.g. by supporting customised collation?

    >- 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
    Good point. But of course this (alleged) person interested in Phoenician
    but not Hebrew will not be helped if more than one encoding is permitted
    for Phoenician. Anyway, this is a case where language tagging should be
    used rather than a separate script. We don't define separate scripts for
    Danish and Norwegian so that people can find one but not the other in a

    >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.
    Agreed. And we have now seen that not all non-Semiticists want separate
    encoding, for it is clear that the Ebionites at least do not.

    On 24/05/2004 06:58, Michael Everson wrote:

    > ...
    > In any case we're encoding the significant nodes in your *diascript.
    > Similarly, Swedish, Bokmål, Nynorsk, and Danish are distinguished, as
    > are the Romance languages.

    They are not distinguished as scripts, only by language tagging. No one
    has objected to separate language tagging for Phoenician - although that
    is a potentially troublesome concept.

    On 24/05/2004 07:23, Peter Constable wrote:

    >>From: []
    >>Behalf Of Mark E. Shoulson
    >>Sent: Monday, May 24, 2004 5:47 AM
    >>The fact that there are people who would be
    >>served by it indicates that Unicode should provide it.
    >Careful, here: the fact that people would be served by it indicates that
    >UTC should *consider* providing it. But the further consideration is
    >whether those people can be served *without* it. If they would be served
    >by it and cannot be well served without it, *then* we conclude that UTC
    >should provide it.

    Good point, Peter. No one has yet shown that anyone cannot be served
    *without* a separately encoded Phoenician script, only that a few people
    want it.

    Peter Kirk (personal) (work)

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