Re: Why Fraktur is irrelevant (was RE: Fraktur Legibility (was Re: Response to Everson Phoenician)

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Tue May 25 2004 - 14:09:12 CDT

  • Next message: Michael Everson: "RE: Proposal to encode dominoes and other game symbols"

    Peter Constable wrote at 10:42 AM on Tuesday, May 25, 2004:

    >Let's say that you have adequately demonstrated that Fraktur text is not
    >legible to most Latin speakers. (This can be disputed since there is
    >some measure of legibility -- all of your subjects did recognize some
    >portions of the text. But I'll assume it's demonstrated.) All that this
    >demonstrates is that *glyphs* may not be recognizable. It does not
    >demonstrate that characters are distinct. For *any* script, one can
    >create glyphs that the average user of the script will find illegible.
    >I've seen Thai typefaces that I certainly had difficulty reading, but
    >that does not mean that the characters are not Thai. The point is that
    >*some* people can read such text, and they recognize those characters as
    >Thai, or Latin in the case of Fraktur.

    This, in fact, is an important reason why I chose to use a set of glyphs
    published as representative glyphs in the Unicode Standard; I did not go
    out fishing for some obscure font.

    >The important question for character encoding is whether the needs of
    >users of Fraktur are best met if they are encoded as distinct
    >characters. For mathematicians, distinct Fraktur symbols have been
    >encoded. But for people using Fraktur style for German (or whatever
    >language) text, they will use the characters in the Basic Latin block.
    >That is what will best meet their needs. (If any of them *wants* to
    >encode text using the math symbols, that is their prerogative, but that
    >is not necessarily what others might recommend to them for their
    >particular application.)
    >The fact that people who do not regularly use Fraktur find it illegible
    >has no bearing whatsoever. The people who *do* use Fraktur (apart from
    >the mathematicians) consider it Latin and are best served by encoding
    >their text as Latin.

    Precisely the same could be said, mutatis mutandis, for Phoenician/Hebrew.

    >For the case of PH, we can ask questions about legibility, but there is
    >no need to look for analogues with Fraktur. Some people who know Hebrew
    >find Hebrew-language text set with PH glyphs legible, some (the vast
    >majority) do not. The same is true for German and Fraktur. But all that
    >tells us is that *perhaps* PH can be unified with square Hebrew
    >characters. It is not the only consideration in whether we do unify
    >characters, however, and the situation wrt Fraktur does not tell us
    >anything additional that pertains to that issue.

    But the alleged illegibility issue has been raised multiple times as
    being somehow important in the decision making process. I am only
    pointing out that it should be applied judiciously, and I don't believe
    it is currently being so applied by some.

    >Can we **please** discontinue this discussion of Fraktur in relation to
    >making decisions about PH.

    I am only making it in RESPONSE to repeated references to the
    illegibility of Phoenician to modern Hebrew speakers as somehow being a
    decisive factor for this proposal.


    Dean A. Snyder

    Assistant Research Scholar
    Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
    Computer Science Department
    Whiting School of Engineering
    218C New Engineering Building
    3400 North Charles Street
    Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

    office: 410 516-6850
    cell: 717 817-4897

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue May 25 2004 - 14:09:00 CDT