Re: PH technical issues (was RE: Why Fraktur is irrelevant

From: John Hudson (
Date: Thu May 27 2004 - 13:59:10 CDT

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    Peter Constable wrote:

    > That question has been answered. So far, the responses to the answers
    > provided haven't been exactly deafening. Does nobody in the
    > pro-unification camp have any response? Is nobody willing to give
    > acknowledgement to the problems presented?

    My response was to ask what need there was for plain-text in the circumstance in which the
    plain-text distinction was identified as a 'need'. The only response I received back was
    John Jenkin's 'What if someone were trying to read their Hebrew e-mail at an Internet cafe
    that only had a Palaeo-Hebrew font installed?' hypothesis. Aside from the sheer
    unlikeliness of this, this threw the discussion back on the legibility criterion, but I'd
    really like to know what prompts other users of 'Phoenician' to *need* a separate
    encoding. I understand that some people may *want* a separate encoding, but I have not yet
    seen a *need*, i.e. something that requires a distinction in plain-text. And I would like
    to see such a need clearly explained, with material examples, because then we could stop
    arguing until Michael submits his next semitic script proposal.

    The concern I have is not so much with the Phoenician encoding per se, but with the
    encoding of 'significant nodes' -- to use Michael's phrase -- on a script continuum. While
    this might make sense to scholars dealing with isolated atomic instances of that
    continuum, it is not going to make sense to scholars dealing with the continuum as a
    whole, for whom the structural identity of the 'diacripts' within the continuum is much
    more important than their visual dissimilarity at specific places and times. There are
    'technical issues' -- in the same sense that there are technical issues prompting some
    people to want a separate Phoenician encoding, i.e. usage issues -- that arise in trying
    to do scholarly work in a script continuum that is variously encoded as multiple scripts.
    These issues may not be sufficient to overcome the conflicting 'needs' of other scholars,
    but they should not be ignored on that basis. In particular, if Unicode encodes a number
    of 'significant nodes' on the semtitic script continuum, how should the standard be used
    to encode texts that fall between the nodes? This is an issue even if one accepts the
    concept of nodes, i.e. of a linear continuum with clearly identifiable chronological or
    cultural script instances. Dean has, convincingly I think, presented examples of
    overlapping of use of such 'nodes' among ancient communities, making it harder to
    distinguish them from within the continuum.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC
    Currently reading:
    Typespaces, by Peter Burnhill
    White Mughals, by William Dalrymple
    Hebrew manuscripts of the Middle Ages, by Colette Sirat

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