Re: Bantu click letters

From: John Cowan (
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 09:46:13 CDT

  • Next message: John Cowan: "Re: Bantu click letters"

    Michael Everson scripsit:

    > > > Effort and expense was made to cut the letters for the publication.
    > >
    > >And today, if I were reprinting it, I'd commission a digital font
    > >(your effort, my expense) and put the characters in the PUA.
    > Not if you wanted, as an Africanist, to be able to represent the text
    > as it was originally written.

    We must be talking past one another somehow, but I don't understand how.
    To represent the text as originally written, I need a digital representation
    for each of the characters in it. Since all I want to do is reprint
    the book -- I don't need to use the unusual characters in interchange --
    the PUA and a commissioned font seem just perfect to me.

    > You don't know whether or not they were only used in a single
    > document. You know only that I *own* that single document. You are
    > declaring the characters guilty until proved innocent. That's
    > antagonistic.

    I intend no antagonism.

    We treat the Phaistos-disk characters as guilty until proven innocent,
    for the same reason -- there's only one text. (It's also true that
    we can't interpret them, which is additional evidence against them.)
    There's no *point* in encoding the PD characters because they aren't
    used in interchange -- see above.

    > >If I decided to start using thorn instead of theta in my otherwise
    > >IPA transcriptions, that would be an idiosyncratic use of it.
    > Plenty of Germanist transcriptions use thorn. In any case, the
    > analogy isn't relevant, as both thorn and theta are encoded and
    > available for use.

    I was talking about what it means to be idiosyncratic. (Not that
    either of us need any real instruction on the subject!)

    > >(LATIN LETTER OWL, indeed.)

    LATIN LETTER OI, indeed. :-)

    > [OWL] is interesting, by the way. Asmus says it's similar to
    > something the Japanese use for telephone answering machines. I don't
    > know about that, though it looks familar to me. I wonder what Doke's
    > source for it was.

    It looks to me the sort of thing that would be easy to reinvent.
    Some of my habitual doodles are much like it.

    > I was astonished because I hadn't seen them before. That does not
    > mean I didn't believe that they weren't worthy of encoding. Just
    > because I hadn't seen them before doesn't mean they don't exist and
    > aren't worthy of encoding either. Khoisian phonology is rather
    > esoteric, after all.

    Sure. I was addressing the question of the *novelty* of the characters.
    If neither you nor I nor anyone else in this community has seen them
    before, they are most certainly novel.

    > I am gobsmacked. On what grounds are these not characters? They are
    > not glyph representations of other characters.

    They *are* characters. It's just not useful to encode them, any more
    than it's useful to encode most of the scripts in the Conscript Registry.

    Find more documents, and the picture changes. (Find more Phaistos-type
    disks, and that picture changes too.)

    If you have ever wondered if you are in hell,         John Cowan
    it has been said, then you are on a well-traveled
    road of spiritual inquiry.  If you are absolutely
    sure you are in hell, however, then you must be
    on the Cross Bronx Expressway.          --Alan Feuer, NYTimes, 2002-09-20

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