Re: Updated Phoenician proposal: confidential?

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 15:56:49 CDT

  • Next message: Rick McGowan: "Re: Updated Phoenician proposal: confidential?"

    On 02/06/2004 11:36, Rick McGowan wrote:

    > Peter Kirk wrote...
    >> ... I suppose he didn't want to put his proposal at risk by
    >> describing how the user community was, at least in part, opposed to
    >> the proposal.
    > That imputes to him a motive that I doubt he had. My impression is
    > that Michael didn't know there would be such violent opposition, or
    > indeed *any* opposition, when he posted it.
    > Rick
    There was a discussion of Phoenician and Aramaic on this list 14-16 July
    2003, in which Michael took part, and in which some opposition to
    separate encoding of Phoenician was expressed. In late December 2003
    there was a further and lengthy discussion of Aramaic and other NW
    Semitic scripts on the Hebrew list (and partly copied to this list), and
    again Michael took part. In both discussions, especially the latter, the
    point was made clearly that many users consider Phoenician and
    palaeo-Hebrew to be glyph variants of Hebrew.

    For example, on 25 December 2003 Dean Snyder wrote:

    >Ancient Phoenician, Punic, Hebrew, Moabite, Ammonite, and Aramaic are different dialects and/or languages commonly written with the same right-to-left script system containing the same 22 non-numeric characters and exhibiting no more glyphic variation over a period of a thousand years than that seen in the various manifestations of the Latin alphabet. ... I see no justification for separately encoding Phoenician. ... What we have here is a continuum of glyphic variation within a single script system.

    On 24 December 2003 Elaine Keown replied to Michael Everson:

    >>> There is zero chance that Phoenician will be
    >>> considered to be a glyph variant of Hebrew.
    >Many, many Semitists would be truly astonished to read
    >this sentence.
    There is plenty more like this, but this evidence, publicly available in
    the archives, is more than adequate to demonstrate that Michael had been
    in contact with users of Phoenician and palaeo-Hebrew and was well aware
    that his proposal was highly controversial and not acceptable to many
    scholars of Semitic languages.

    On 22 December 2003 Michael Everson wrote to me on the Hebrew list, re a
    proposed review of the Semitic scripts on the roadmap:

    > Please do not force us to undertake this review NOW. We do not have
    > the resources to do so effectively and already this thread has taken
    > up far too much time and energy. We have explained to you that nothing
    > actionable is happening with any of this material at present. How many
    > times do I have to say that?

    Well, maybe "at present" meant now rather than four months later, but it
    does seem strange that so soon after repeating that he had no such
    intentions Michael found time and energy to propose Phoenician.

    You, Rick, also replied on 22 December 2003 to the same posting of mine,
    so you can't claim to be ignorant of this discussion. You wrote:

    >You can't just "call for a review" and expect anything to happen. Please
    >dcument your opinions and document some facts. If you have a different
    >model of Aramaic, Phoenician, and related scripts, then you should write up
    >a formal paper with appropriate references, evidence, and supporting
    >documentation, and explain what you think is an appropriate model, and get
    >some scholarly buy-in from people who study those scripts. Submit that to
    >UTC for discussion.
    I didn't do say because you and Michael both denied any intention to
    proceed with such proposals in the near future. Would this kind of paper
    still be appropriate? There is of course little time to prepare anything
    before the UTC meeting.

    On 24 December 2003 Michael Everson wrote:

    > I do, however, oppose overunification when it is warranted to do so.
    > At the same time it takes time to do that. It took a great deal of
    > time to disunify Coptic from Greek and Nuskhuri from Mkhedruli. I do
    > NOT want to have to do that again with a hasty overunification of
    > early Semitic alphabets.

    I agree. But I am also opposed to hasty disunification, because that
    cannot be undone at all (although I suppose a new Phoenician script
    could be deprecated). This subject requires full and clear debate. It is
    most unfortunate that the debate which some of us have attempted to have
    on this list has become derailed because technical questions have been
    misinterpreted as ad hominem attacks. I accept that I am partly at fault
    for not being as clear as I might have been, and for responding
    inappropriately to some ad hominem replies. But there does seem to have
    been a serious lack of technical argumentation in favour of the
    proposal, especially from the proposer.

    On 02/06/2004 12:03, Peter Constable wrote:

    > ...
    >>Well, the Phoenician proposal fits with the second sentence here, but
    >>seems to have totally ignored the first sentence: the scholarly needs
    >>expressed by the majority of scholars of the proposed script as
    >>on this list have apparently been rejected as irrelevant.
    >This is utterly false. It assumes a premise that is completely invalid:
    >that the only want to accommodate the need of Semitic scholars is to
    >reject a proposal for distinct encoding of PH. It has repeatedly been
    >stated / explained / demonstrated that distinct encoding of PH does not
    >imply that the needs of Semitic cannot be served.
    I should clarify. I was trying to avoid anything that looked personal.
    But my point was that the original proposer apparently rejected
    scholarly needs as irrelevant. There is no mention of them in the
    proposal, and I don't recall the proposer making any comments accepting
    that the needs of the scholarly community should be responded to. Others
    on this list have argued that there is no incompatibility between
    separate encoding and scholarly needs. I accept that this argument has
    been put forward, but I don't accept it.

    By the way, anyone interested in this thread may be interested in, especially the image
    which shows (on its bottom line) a 22 character Semitic alphabet,
    written left to right (and with the fifth letter looking remarkably like
    its modern equivalent E!). This is technically proto-Canaanite, which I
    think Michael has already dropped from the Phoenician proposal, but
    several glyphs are similar to later Phoenician.

    Peter Kirk (personal) (work)

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