Re: Phoenician, Fraktur etc

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Fri May 28 2004 - 07:45:53 CDT

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    On 28/05/2004 04:25, Christopher Fynn wrote:

    > ...
    > Dear Peter
    > Are there no non-Hebrew texts written in Phoenician (and the other
    > archaic scripts Michael's proposal folds with Phoenician)?

    There are texts written with Phoenician glyphs which are technically not
    Hebrew, but all (or at least nearly all) of them are written in a group
    of languages which differ from one another little more than do British
    and American English - at least, the differences were this small in the
    early period when the Phoenician script as proposed was in use. All of
    these other languages are also commonly written in square Hebrew script,
    at least when texts are reprinted by Semiticists. (And yes, they are
    also commonly written in Latin transliteration.)

    As for the folding in Michael's proposal, this is highly confused.
    "Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite" is a cover term for a variety of
    scripts distinct from Phoenician, with a variable glyph repertoire,
    which should not be unified with Phoenician or Hebrew, and should not be
    defined by Unicode on the grounds that it is not well enough known.
    "Punic, Neo-Punic, Phoenician proper, Late Phoenician cursive,
    Phoenician papyrus, Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew seals, Ammonite, Moabite,
    Palaeo-Hebrew." is a strange mixture of languages written with
    essentially the same glyphs as Phoenician, names of individual
    inscriptions, and arguably one or two separate scripts; I accept that
    these should be unified with Phoenician, and the question is whether
    they should be further unified with Hebrew.

    > If people want to encode ancient Hebrew texts written in paleo-Hebrew
    > using Hebrew characters, the presence of a Phoenician character block
    > in the Unicode Standard would in no way prevent them from doing this.
    > If there is as much of a consensus amongst the scholarly community
    > that paleo-Hebrew texts should be encoded using only Hebrew
    > characters as it has been claimed there is, it should not be at all
    > difficult to get this established amongst that community as a standard
    > convention. A block of Phoenician characters would in no way
    > prevent this.
    Well, it would imply that texts using the same glyphs and in very nearly
    the same language would be encoded quite differently. Is this confusion

    The Gezer calendar inscription could be encoded as either
    (palaeo-)Hebrew or Phoenician, as there is scholarly debate over whether
    its language is early Hebrew or early Phoenician. In fact this is about
    as meaningful as asking if a text written in Bosnia (in Latin script)
    before about 1990 is Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian. The languages were
    one, "Serbo-Croat", with a few dialect differences, and the real
    question is whether the author was a Serb, a Croat, or a Bosnian Muslim.)

    Anyway, in so far as there is a consensus, it is not "that paleo-Hebrew
    texts should be encoded using only Hebrew characters", but that all
    texts written with Phoenician-style glyphs should be encoded using only
    Hebrew characters. No one is proposing disunification of Phoenician and
    palaeo-Hebrew, for the reasons given above e.g. the Gezer calendar.

    > ...
    >>> There are some real users of Phoenician who have stated that they
    >>> have a need to distinguish this script from the Hebrew script in/
    >>> plain text .
    >> This is not a technical issue. It is a case of *I want* rather than
    >> *I need*. If they have a real need rather than a want, let them
    >> demonstrate that need. This is what the proposers have consistently
    >> refused to do.
    > Personally, I accept they have a need if they say they do unless
    > proved otherwise, just as I accept the stated need of others to encode
    > paleo-Hebrew texts using characters in the Hebrew block.
    > I'd say it is at least as incumbent on the "unifiers" to suggest a
    > reasonable method to satisfy the requirements of those who have stated
    > that they have a need for a separate plain text Phoenician encoding.

    Well, I would say that it is first incumbent on the proposers to
    demonstrate that their need is real, based on sound technical arguments,
    or on realistic scenarios where a plain text distinction is necessary.
    Peter C's Sally and Latisha scenario was the right kind of approach, but
    failed to demonstrate that the distinction should be in plain text.
    After all, if the proposers cannot state their requirements, how can
    others suggest how they can be satisfied?

    > ...
    > As I wrote to Elaine, the relationship between Phoenician characters
    > and Hebrew could probably also be explicitly indicated in the names
    > list and described in the block intro for Phoenician - would you
    > consider this satisfactory? If so, a comment on the Phoenician
    > proposal requesting these
    > additions could be submitted.

    I would consider this a small but inadequate step in the right direction.

    On 28/05/2004 03:51, saqqara wrote:

    >... I
    >shall not use the P-word here but we have recently seen a debating game in
    >this list. A poor substitute for a well-researched counter-proposal for
    >comment IMO.
    A counter-proposal would be a blank document, because no UTC action is
    asked for. Well, maybe it could propose that Phoenician and the other
    languages mentioned in the proposal should be written with the existing
    Hebrew characters, but that does not need a formal UTC resolution and so
    the proposal would be pointless.

    But I do plan to submit additional official feedback to the UTC.

    Peter Kirk (personal) (work)

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