Phoenician, Fraktur etc

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 05:17:23 CDT

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    On 26/05/2004 00:57, James Kass wrote:

    > ...
    >My pocket change is depressingly modern.
    >Some coins from the Phoenician region apparently have Phoenician numerals
    >and Hebrew legends suggesting that these coins weren't issued by the
    >Phoenicians. I couldn't find any references to coins bearing both Hebrew and
    >palaeo-Hebrew legends, but wouldn't be surprised if they exist.
    >(Numismatist's plain text database of coin legends, anyone?)

    If I remember correctly, some modern Israeli coins have palaeo-Hebrew as
    well as Hebrew inscriptions. Just found the link: on 28th April Simon
    Montagu pointed us to and But I also remember someone
    saying that coin inscriptions are outside the scope of Unicode, I'm not
    sure why.

    >If palaeo-Hebrew and square Hebrew are the same script, then
    >it couldn't be said that the Jews abandoned the palaeo-Hebrew
    >script after the exile. Yet, this is what available references say
    >did happen. (By available, I mean to me. Additional citations
    >would be welcome.)

    If Fraktur and ordinary Latin are the same script, then it couldn't be
    said that the Germans abandoned the Fraktur script after WWII. Yet, that
    is what available references say did happen. Well, I haven't checked,
    but I remember reading this kind of thing. The issue here is simply that
    not all popular or scholarly literature uses the same definition of
    "script" as Unicode does. Anyway, if you want to play this kind of game,
    I'm sure I can find references which call Phoenician and Hebrew one
    script, and then we are back to disputable claims of who is in the majority.

    >Negative proofs are kind of hard. I've been unable to find
    >anything which states that the ancient Jews considered
    >Phoenician and Hebrew to be the same script. If it were
    >easily found, I'd've found it already. In fairness, I've also
    >tried to find anything documenting that the ancient Jews
    >specifically considered Phoenician and Hebrew to be
    >separate scripts. Maybe it was such a "no-brainer" (either
    >way) for them that they never recorded their thoughts on
    >the subject. Or, maybe nothing survived. Or, maybe
    >nothing's been brought to light yet.

    Maybe they didn't have a concept of "script" in the modern sense. They
    certainly didn't have available to them the Unicode definition of "script".

    >Or, maybe somebody knows better?
    >Religious scribes had very strict rules. The Word was supposed
    >to be copied *very* faithfully. Yet, older DSS appear seem to
    >have been in palaeo- and newer DSS in Hebrew.
    >Did the scribes think they were faithfully copying older scrolls
    >when they "abandoned palaeo-Hebrew script" and made newer
    >scrolls in Hebrew? Did they make the newer scrolls because they'd
    >abandoned the older script and no-one other than scholars could
    >*read* the older scrolls? Did the very strict rules begin some
    >time after the older script was abandoned? Does anyone know?

    Well, maybe the rules changed with time. And there does seem to have
    been a reluctance to write the name of God in the new-fangled Aramaic
    square glyphs. But I'm sure that basically the copyists considered that
    they were copying exactly the same string of characters, just using
    different glyphs for them. They certainly would not have considered this
    a change to the text, just a change in how it was represented on their
    equivalent of paper.

    On 25/05/2004 17:11, Mike Ayers wrote:

    > ...
    > Hmm? This implies that a case is being made that Phoenician
    > should be encoded solely on the basis of legibility. I do not recall
    > anyone making such a case. Would you kindly refresh my memory?

    Well, given the amount of material I don't blame you for not being able
    to put your finger on a specific claim. But Michael Everson wrote as
    long ago as 28th April, right at the start of this thread:

    > Phoenician has been on the table for encoding for 12 years. I am
    > actually astonished to see it suggested that it should be unified with
    > Hebrew. Print a newspaper article in French with Fraktur or Gaelic and
    > people will be able to read it. Print a newspaper article in Georgian
    > with Nuskhuri letters and no one wil be able to read it. Print a
    > newspaper article in Hebrew with Phoenician letters and no one wil be
    > able to read it.

    So it was clear right from the start that a major argument (in fact in
    my opinion the only one with any real weight apart from that someone
    wants it) in favour of separate encoding is that Phoenician script is
    not legible to ordinary Hebrew readers. OK, Michael did not write
    "solely", but no other proper technical justification for the proposal
    has ever been given, only claims like "Many experts say that it is a
    different script" and "Some people want it to be encoded separately".

    And the argument from Fraktur was brought up in the same posting, as in
    favour of separate encoding. Well, it may be true as Michael claimed
    that a newspaper *article* in French with Fraktur will be legible, but,
    as Dean has demonstrated, a newspaper *headline* in French with Fraktur
    is not legible, because it is all upper case. That blows a major hole in
    Michael's original and best argument in favour of separate encoding.

    So, Mike, are we agreed that the argument from legibility has been
    disposed of? After all, it has been shown that lack of legibility does
    NOT imply a separate Unicode script. Perhaps we can move on to any other
    technical justifications which might have been put forward, although I
    can't recall any.

    On 25/05/2004 23:06, Doug Ewell wrote:

    > ...
    >So far, so good. But then Dean responded:
    >>So, you are saying there are glyph streams in German Fraktur that
    >>fluent, native Germans would have trouble reading. Then, based on
    >>reasoning being applied to Phoenician, Fraktur (or at least Fraktur
    >>capitals) should be separately encoded.
    >This reply is so completely devoid of logic and reason that it's clear
    >to me that any counter-reply based on logic and reason will fall on deaf
    >ears. I will not participate further in this thread, nor any of its
    >ancestors and descendants. Have fun, guys.

    No doubt Dean compressed his argument because he thought that anyone who
    had read this far in the thread would have understood the logic very
    clearly. But apparently not. So let's lay this out more completely. I am
    sorry to waste the time of those who have already understood this.

    A. Most Germans read texts in upper case Latin characters fluently.
    B. Most Germans cannot read texts in upper case Fraktur characters.
    (partly demonstrated by Dean and apparently accepted by all)
    C. Upper case Fraktur cannot be read by most readers of Latin script.
    (derived from A and B)
    D. Upper case Fraktur and Latin are not mutually legible. (derived from C)
    E. Most Israelis read texts in Hebrew characters fluently. (assumed)
    F. Most Israelis cannot read texts in Phoenician characters. (partly
    demonstrated by Mark and apparently accepted by all)
    G. Phoenician cannot be read by most readers of Hebrew script. (derived
    from E and F)
    H. Phoenician and Hebrew are not mutually legible. (derived from G)
    I. If scripts are not mutually legible, they should be encoded
    separately. (argument put forward by Michael Everson on 28th April, as
    quoted above, and since then repeated by him and others many times)
    J. [Dependent on I] Phoenician should be encoded separately from Hebrew
    (derived from H and I)
    K. [Dependent on I] Upper case Fraktur should be encoded separately from
    Latin (derived from D and I)

    Therefore, if principle I is accepted, then conclusion K follows just as
    much as conclusion J. And if conclusion K is rejected, this implies that
    principle I must be rejected, and therefore conclusion J does not follow.

    Doug, I hope this is now clear to you.

    There is only one asymmetry in the argument, which is that some people
    want Phoenician to be encoded separately, whereas no one has expressed
    clear support for encoding Fraktur separately except for mathematical
    purposes (and also for some other special purposes already defined such
    as the Fraktur P used as a papyrus symbol). But this is not a technical

    So let's make it very clear. There are, as far as I can see, no
    convincing *technical* arguments for separate encoding of Phoenician.
    There are non-technical, perhaps *political* arguments for separate
    encoding, and these arguments need to be taken seriously. And it seems
    clear that there are really political agendas behind all the
    pseudo-technical arguments of the last months. That is the real reason
    why this issue has been so contentious.

    Peter Kirk (personal) (work)

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