Re: Revised Phoenician proposal

From: Mark E. Shoulson (
Date: Mon Jun 07 2004 - 20:32:07 CDT

  • Next message: Andrew C. West: "Additional examples of the Phoenician script in use"

    Peter Kirk wrote:

    > On 06/06/2004 07:55, Mark E. Shoulson wrote:
    >> Scholars of Semitic languages do *not* have a monopoly on the
    >> heritage of ancient writing systems. There are other people in the
    >> world besides them (a few), and some of them wish to use Phoenician
    >> letters distinctly from Square Hebrew, and their desires and needs
    >> are *EVERY* *BIT* as important as those of your precious
    >> Semiticists. Note that some of these people you are treating as
    >> negligible are respected professors of the humanities, including the
    >> scholar of Semitic languages you dismiss below.
    > I never claimed that they had a monopoly, only that their views are
    > *EVERY* *BIT* as important as those of generalists and
    > Indo-Europeanists and must not be ignored. Indeed, more so, for as D.
    > Starner writes, "The people who use the script are the most important
    > concerns", and it is these scholars who use it regularly.

    We've been through this as well. The situation is not symmetric. It's
    not "Group A wants one thing and Group B wants another and so we'll do
    whichever one of them is bigger." The deck is stacked in favor of
    encoding. If a lot of people don't need or want something, BUT SOME DO,
    then the preference is to encode. There is always some sort of cost to
    EVERYONE for encoding anything, and that cost is what we pay in order so
    that other people can do their thing. It would be a lot easier if
    Tibetan weren't in the Unicode standard. Easier for me, anyway, it's
    not like *I* use it. And easier for developers. But we have it,
    because for some bizarre reason, the Tibetans think it's useful. And
    Phoenician-geeks think Phoenician is useful. Remember, too, that
    effacing a distinction made by Unicode is a lot easier than creating one
    that isn't. That is to say, if Phoenician is encoded, the Semiticists
    have a recourse, a way of ignoring the fact that their opinion was
    overridden. But if it isn't encoded, Phoenician-fans will have *no*
    recourse: plain text distinctions simply will not be possible. There's
    mark-up, sure, but that's another issue. And it has been demonstrated
    that there IS a community of Phoenician-fans out there, whether or not
    you think they matter.

    >> The needs of the Semitic community must be taken into account, but so
    >> must the needs of others. It is preposterous to say that the needs
    >> of these scholars to have a single encoding outweighs the needs of
    >> others to have separate ones, since the scholars in question
    >> demonstrably do NOT need a single encoding: they've been managing
    >> okay without one for quite some time. Would it be nice if they
    >> didn't have to manage in that way? Perhaps, but not so nice as to
    >> deny other people their *legitimate* needs (how do I know it isn't
    >> that nice? Just because things have been working okay so far without
    >> a unique encoding, and there will not be a unique encoding in use by
    >> Semitic scholars for a *long* time, whether or not Phoenician is ever
    >> encoded).
    > Oh, come on Mark, drop this stupid argument. By the same principle,
    > the proposers of the Phoenician script "demonstrably do NOT need a
    > [separate script]: they've been managing okay without one for quite
    > some time." Indeed all people "demonstrably do NOT need [Unicode]:
    > they've been managing okay without [it] for quite some time." Yes,
    > everyone has been managing okay with a variety of legacy and hacked
    > encodings, and if pushed they can continue to do so. But the point of
    > Unicode is to get away from this kind of hacking and move to a unified
    > scheme for representing characters, based not on hacks but on
    > principles such as that "The Unicode Standard encodes characters, not
    > glyphs" (TUS p.14). This principle needs to be upheld. And while
    > Michael is upholding it, many of those who support him are in fact
    > rejecting it, by arguing that although in principle Phoenician letters
    > are not separate characters they should be encoded as a separate script.

    All I'm saying is that lack of a single unified script has not been a
    death-blow to the study of Semitics, and will continue not to be such
    whether or not Phoenician is adopted (it will be a LONG time before
    everything is switched over to Unicode). Will there be an impact?
    There's always an impact, to everyone. We already said that. On the
    other hand, will there be an impact to the Phoenician-using community
    (yes, it exists, and we can even name some of its members) if it doesn't.

    >> Please stop pretending that the scholarly world outside the
    >> Semiticist community is inconsequential in this regard, and that the
    >> needs of the Semiticist community are being ignored. They are also
    >> being considered, as they must be.
    > Well, I am glad to hear that they are being considered, although there
    > has been little sign that they are by the proposer. I am sure that
    > they are by UTC members.

    Leave the personal attacks out, OK? Yes, that counts as one, as do a
    lot of the other things you've been saying: you are saying that Michael
    has not been acting in good faith. Whether or not that's true (and it
    isn't), it is decidedly a personal attack and really doesn't have a
    place in this debate.


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