Re: Phoenician, Fraktur etc

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Wed May 26 2004 - 15:54:19 CDT

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    There are a number of reasons why things are on
    the Roadmap. Things that are on the Roadmap,
    while not "guaranteed" encoding, are there based
    on the expert opinion of the Roadmap Committee
    (Ken, Rick, Michael), and are based on a
    long-standing *assumption* that the scholarly
    taxonomy of the world's writing systems has been,
    is, and will be the practice of the Unicode
    Consortium and WG2 for determining which of the
    world's writing systems *should* be encoded. This
    is not explicit, written policy. It is the
    existing practice of the architects of the
    Unicode Standard. It is my view that this
    practice is unlikely to change, and that if an
    explicit, written policy were to be introduced
    into the working procedures, it would be based on
    the scholarly taxonomy of the world's writing

    There are a number of reasons why things are on the Roadmap.

    One is current use by living communities.

    One is current use by specialists.

    One is current use by non-specialists enthusiasts and generalists.

    One is the traditional separation of writing
    continua into nodes of the tree of the world's
    writing systems.

    One is simple recognizability and legibility; it
    is this that *informs* the traditional analysis
    by scholars of writing systems described above.

    Normally a script has an aggregate of these reasons.

    A number of people have been trying to twist
    arguments in order to "invalidate" them and to
    trick us into saying that black is white. Peter
    Kirk and Dean Snyder in particular are grasping
    at straws trying to chip away at the mass of
    evidence that put things on the Roadmap in the
    first place. It is an exercise in futility on
    their part.

    What Patrick Durusau said is perfectly correct:

    >Semitic scholars reached the conclusion all
    >Semitic languages share the same 22 characters.
    >A long standing and quite useful conclusion that
    >has nothing at all to do with your proposal
    >[which] has NOTHING to do with how any Semitic
    >language is represented in any script other than
    >as transliteration.
    >What has happened is that conclusion has been brought into a Unicode
    >discussion that does not share that viewpoint
    >and in fact has its own criteria for encoding of

    In my view, the argument that Phoenician is to
    Hebrew as Fraktur is to Latin is ignorant, rather
    *embarrassingly* ignorant, of the historical
    relationships both of the development of the
    Semitic scripts on the one hand, and of the Latin
    script and the typographic and manuscript
    relationship of between Roman and Fraktur (and
    indeed Gaelic) on the other. Snyder's example
    "proving" that his mother couldn't read Fraktur
    in ALL CAPS only shows that he doesn't know what
    he is talking about. Goethe and Schiller couldn't
    have read that text with any ease either.
    Arguments about Sütterlin are likewise ignorant.
    The "legibility argument" is one of the things
    that scholars of writing systems for the past two
    centuries have used to classify the world's
    writing systems. As an heir to the legacy of
    their work, I use it to help to encode scripts in
    the Universal Character Set, for everyone in the

    Arguments about Klingon have been equally vapid, should that need to be stated.

    We have spent a month on this issue. Snyder and
    Kirk have not produced either technical or
    political arguments which suggest that the
    unified Phoenician script should be unified with
    the Square Hebrew which has been encoded already.

    As Peter Constable has pointed out, Dean Snyder
    has already yielded the argument:

    >I think all acknowledge a demonstrated desire by
    >some to distinguish the two [PH and square
    >Hebrew] in plain text, but I and others have
    >suggested that that desire should be weighed
    >against the added complexity for text processing
    >that a new encoding will introduce.

    We have heard your arguments. We have weighed
    them. Unification has lost. I believe that it is
    a foregone conclusion that Phoenician will be
    sent for ballot, though of course the UTC and WG2
    could decide otherwise.

    As far as I'm concerned, that's about the end of the discussion.

    Michael Everson * * Everson Typography *  *

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