Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: John Hudson (
Date: Mon May 24 2004 - 13:26:40 CDT

  • Next message: D. Starner: "Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?"

    Michael Everson wrote:

    >> To be fair, it isn't at all clear from your evidence that the Ancient
    >> Hebrews had the same concept of 'script' as the Unicode Standard. I
    >> don't recall anything in what you cited that suggested anything more
    >> significant than a recognition of a change in the style of writing
    >> *the same Hebrew letters*, or as they might have said, if they did use
    >> Unicode parlance, the same abstract characters.

    > But we *do* and we have the history of the world's writing systems which
    > lead *us* to consider these distinctions, in order to encode the world's
    > writing systems in the Universal Character Set as more than a set of
    > font variations on "the alphabet".

    No one is suggesting the latter. What is being suggested is that in considering the
    position of semitic scripts in the history of the world's writing systems the opinion of
    semitic scholars should not be secondary to that of generalist writers, most of whom have
    addressed ancient semitic scripts only from the perspective of their historically assumed
    contribution to Greek civilisation.

    Classification is an arbitrary process in which one produces useful categories into which
    to arrange an otherwise unwieldy body of knowledge. The classification of scripts in the
    general history of the world's writing systems is useful for writing general histories of
    writing systems. It does not necessarily represent the truth.

    Unicode also classifies scripts and seeks to do so in a way that is useful for text
    processing. This is well and good. What I have found problematic in your defence of the
    Phoenician proposal, Michael, is your assumption that the classification of script used in
    histories of writing systems naturally corresponds to the classification of scripts in
    Unicode, such that the fact that a number of books call something a script means that it
    should have a separate code block in Unicode. When non-generalists state that this
    historical classification is not useful for text processing purposes, and indeed that they
    disagree, from a specialist perspective, with that generalist history, they deserve better
    than 'Of course it is a separate script, I have a lot of books that say it is'.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC
    Currently reading:
    Typespaces, by Peter Burnhill
    White Mughals, by William Dalrymple
    Hebrew manuscripts of the Middle Ages, by Colette Sirat

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