Re: Response to Everson Phoenician and why June 7?

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Tue May 25 2004 - 05:39:30 CDT

  • Next message: saqqara: "Re: UTF7 COnverter"

    On 24/05/2004 10:19, Michael Everson wrote:

    > At 08:41 -0700 2004-05-24, Peter Kirk wrote:
    >> 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.
    > That is your unproved assertion, and ignores the fact that your
    > precious databases and archives already include multiscript
    > representation of the languages you study. This insistance that your
    > work will be "damaged" by the presence of Phoenician code positions is
    > as untenable as it was when you first made it.

    I have not ignored the fact that there are already multiple
    representations. I have clearly stated that a major goal of Unicode is
    to move away from such multiple representations, and that the encoding
    of Phoenician should be chosen so as to facilitate that goal (if that's
    the correct jargon).

    >> 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.
    > I see the apology is rescinded too, and it is back to ad-hominem.

    The apology is not rescinded. This is not ad hominem. I have heard
    unconvincing arguments from two or three people. Am I not permitted to
    mention that one of those people has appealed to his own authority as an
    acknowledged expert on writing systems in general? I do not question
    that authority and expertise, I just ask for it to be backed up by
    convincing arguments. Sorry for being repetitive, but I'm certainly not
    the only one, on either side of this discussion.

    >> 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
    > Which was rejected by Ken for good technical reasons.

    I don't remember any technical reasons, it was more a matter of "we
    haven't done it this way before". But perhaps that is only because the
    need to do this has not previously been identified. However, I can make
    a good case for the new Coptic letters being made compatibility
    equivalent to Greek - which can still be done, presumably - as well as
    for similar equivalences for scripts like Gothic and Old Italic, and
    perhaps Indic scripts - which presumably cannot now be added for
    stability reasons.

    >> and with interleaved collation,
    > Which was rejected for the default template (and would go against the
    > practices already in place in the default template) but is available
    > to you in your tailorings.

    Again, a matter of "we haven't done it this way before".

    >> also encoding as variation sequences,
    > Which was rejected by Ken and others for good technical reasons, not
    > the least of which was the p%r%e%p%o%s%t%e%r%o%u%s%n%e%s%s% of
    > interleaving Hebrew text in order to get Phoenician glyphs.

    I don't like this one myself either. But I disagree on
    *preposterousness*. You consider this preposterous because you
    presuppose that these are entirely different scripts. Others consider it
    preposterous *not* to interleave Phoenician and Hebrew because they
    understand these to be glyph variants of the same script. For, as John
    Hudson has put it so clearly, for these people Phoenician and Hebrew
    letters are the same abstract characters, in different representations.

    You wrote elsewhere of "A strong tradition of scholarship" which "does
    not consider all of these numerous and visually-varied 22-letter Semitic
    writing systems to be abstract glyph variants of a single underlying
    structure". I accept that there is such a tradition. But there is also
    "A strong tradition of scholarship", that of most Semiticists, which has
    precisely the opposite view. We all need to recognise that there is this
    genuine scholarly disagreement, and avoid emotive words like
    "preposterousness", and all the more "p%r%e%p%o%s%t%e%r%o%u%s%n%e%s%s%".
    And since neither side can claim a clear majority, we need to look for a
    mediating position which is reasonably acceptable to both sides. Three
    suggestions for this have been put forward. The main objection to two of
    them seems to be that they are novel. But novel problems need novel

    >> 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".
    > It is a pity that the facts are not obvious to you. It is clear that
    > you don't want Phoenician to be a separate script, and you grasp at
    > straws trying to "make" an encoded Phoenician into Hebrew.

    It is clear to me that Phoenician is *not* an entirely separate script.
    It seems to me that it comes somewhere between being the same script and
    being a separate one. (In other words, I don't entirely accept either of
    the strong traditions of scholarship.) Therefore complete separation is
    inappropriate, although I don't insist on complete unification. So I am
    looking for a technical solution which comes somewhere between these two
    extremes, which officially recognises the one-to-one equivalence between
    Phoenician and (a subset of) Hebrew while making a plain text
    distinction possible for those who wish to make it.

    >> 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.
    > The technical solutions you have proposed have been inadequate.

    Can you suggest one which is more adequate? Or in fact are you
    determined to reject any solution, using doubtful technical arguments
    against the details because you have failed to produce convincing
    arguments against the principle?

    > ...
    >> 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.
    > The kind of rhetoric you use is dishonest. "Alleged"? We have had the
    > owner of express his support.

    I'm sorry. I didn't remember the specific point. I withdraw "(alleged)".

    >> And we have now seen that not all non-Semiticists want separate
    >> encoding, for it is clear that the Ebionites at least do not.
    > I do not come to that conclusion from the analysis of that font.

    Well, it is clear at least that their work will be complicated by
    separate encoding, because instead of two encodings for their texts they
    will have three to consider.

    On 24/05/2004 15:08, Philippe Verdy wrote:

    > ...
    >Yes but it is significant that Phoenician letters have letters named a bit
    >differently than Hebrew letters, even when refered to by Semitists!

    The names are only slightly different, perhaps indicating different
    reconstructed pronunciations of the originally identically written names.

    Different letter names do not imply different abstract characters. If
    they did, most of the French alphabet would have to be disunified from
    the English one.

    >Now the fact that it is easy to tweak a Hebrew font to make it look like
    >Phoenician, or to encode it with Hebrew is a technical aspect which does not
    >change the fact that they are still distinct abstract characters. ...

    This is not a fact. It is a position held by some scholars but rejected
    by others.

    On 24/05/2004 16:31, Kenneth Whistler wrote:

    > ... (re MCW encoded Hebrew data)
    >*Displaying* or *printing* such data then involves an interpreter
    >of those conventions -- which might be as simple as an ASCII-encoded
    >font hack.
    Unfortunately it requires a lot more than that. Because of decisions
    taken by the UTC in the past, conversion and display of MCW encoded text
    has become much messier than it might otherwise have been. That is
    Elaine's main point, I think. But I agree with Patrick D that it helps
    none of us to chew over old hurts and slights.

    >... the issue of
    >whether the 22 basic Semitic letters can also be represented in
    >a Phoenician script or not pales to the minor molehill it actually
    >is, in my opinion.

    Obviously a lot of people disagree with you on this one, Ken.

    On 24/05/2004 20:25, Doug Ewell wrote:

    > ...
    >>Try with Sütterlin also unified within Latin ;-)
    >That's handwriting, Patrick. Come on, you know better. I can't read my
    >doctor's handwriting either, but it's unified with Latin.
    Well, Phoenician and palaeo-Hebrew is all handwriting as well. There was
    no printing before the 15th century, and no computers until the 20th
    century. A lot of the variant glyphs which we see in ancient
    inscriptions, and especially in ancient correspondence preserved on
    papyri and ostraca, may well be the ancient equivalent of doctors'

    Peter Kirk (personal) (work)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue May 25 2004 - 05:41:04 CDT