Re: Palaeo-Hebrew, Phoenician, and Unicode (Phoenician Unicode proposal)

From: James Kass (
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 11:37:58 CDT

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    Based on an off-list discussion of yesterday's post from Shemayah
    Phillips of, it was felt that my original post did
    not ask the right question. This was perhaps due to my initial
    misunderstanding of the encoding used in Shemayah's font.

    In my thank you reply, the question was restated in order to
    request further input for us to consider.

    Further input follows.

    Best regards,

    James Kass

    (Begin forwarded message)

    > I know of Mr. Kirk from the Orion list (in the past) and Hebrew
    > Computing posts.
    > I was not able to ascertain your stance in the issue.
    > I'm sorry to hear that you already have a design for characters as I am
    > sure mine is the best and much prettier. ;-) (I have no idea what M.
    > Everson's looks like.)
    > No more seriously, I see Palaeo as separate from Hebrew in a historical
    > sense. If you wanted to have "Herodian" characters, I would fall in with
    > the crowd says it would be redundant and not significantly
    > distinguishable from standardized forms of square-script Hebrew
    > characters. But concerning Palaeo, using it as a separate font, to me,
    > historically says that it was not just "Hebrew" but a regional
    > development of the Levant and only used by Hebrews. It has some
    > differences in representing Hebrew because square script has more
    > characters (e.g., shin/sin) than Palaeo. But also, as someone who has
    > used Palaeo in an educational setting, Palaeo shows a development of the
    > English alphabet from a non-western source. Students are often led to
    > believe in a "Western" civilization with too little notice of its
    > underpinnings in the ANE.
    > If I could be in a position to say it should be represented in its own
    > right, I definitely would to recognize its importance historically. This
    > is quite separate from using the font to suggest religious ideas as
    > prototypical via an archaic font as I do on my website.
    > Shalom,
    > Shemayah
    > James Kass wrote:
    > >Hello Shemayah,
    > >
    > >Thank you very much for your fast response!
    > >
    > >Yes, you are right, I had mis-read the original post to the Unicode list
    > >and was mistaken about your font using the Unicode Hebrew range. Now
    > >that I've had the chance to review this, I can see that it uses the Windows
    > >Hebrew code page. Sorry for my misunderstanding.
    > >
    > >The discussion on the Unicode list concerning Phoenician has been
    > >*very* lively. It's had the most "bandwidth" and contention of any
    > >topic in the several years that I've been a subscriber.
    > >
    > >The people opposed to the Phoenician encoding consider that
    > >Phoenician/Palaeo-Hebrew script is identical *from the standpoint
    > >of abstract character identity* to the modern Hebrew script range
    > >already encoded. Therefore the opposition believes that ancient
    > >Phoenician texts should properly be encoded using the existing
    > >modern Hebrew script range, and that the display of Phoenician
    > >should be handled as a "font change". The opposition believes that
    > >there is no established *need* to be able to represent/display both
    > >modern Hebrew and palaeo-Hebrew in the same plain text document.
    > >
    > >Those supporting the Phoenician encoding consider that Phoenician
    > >has a separate script identity from modern Hebrew and requires
    > >a separate Unicode range. The supporters say that there *is* a
    > >need to be able to represent Phoenician and Hebrew in the same
    > >plain text document and that the practice of some scholars to
    > >represent Phoenician or palaeo-Hebrew using Unicode's modern
    > >Hebrew should be regarded as straight transliteration.
    > >
    > >That is the gist of the dispute.
    > >
    > >Unicode encodes *characters* rather than *glyphs*, and Unicoders
    > >make a technical distinction between characters and glyphs. Unicode
    > >encodes scripts rather than languages.
    > >
    > >Peter Kirk is a scholar and colleague who is involved with one
    > >faction while I'm involved with the other faction. So, I copy
    > >him on this message in order to help me stay as fair as
    > >possible in stating these positions. I'm confident that Peter
    > >will help me to stay honest in this regard. (smile)
    > >
    > >If you have read the above and can not guess which faction
    > >I support, then perhaps I have been successfully fair.
    > >
    > >Michael Everson, the author of the current proposal, is also a
    > >font designer and is using his own Phoenician font for the proposal
    > >charts.
    > >
    > >I've forwarded your reply to the Unicode list with your kind
    > >permission. If, based on the above information, you would like
    > >to add any input for us to consider, it would be most welcome.
    > >I realize fully that opinions on this subject do differ, and,
    > >whether you support one side or the other, your honest
    > >opinion as somebody who is working with the ancient script
    > >(which either has its own identity -or- is a stylistic variant
    > >of the modern Hebrew script) will be most helpful.
    > >
    > >Sincerely,
    > >
    > >James Kass

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