RE: Some thoughts on encoding specialized notations: was RE: Bantu click letters

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 14:36:53 CDT

  • Next message: Asmus Freytag: "RE: Bantu click letters"

    At 12:08 PM 6/10/2004, Peter Constable wrote:
    > > From: Asmus Freytag []
    > > Any notation for a highly specialized subject would always tend to
    > > from a very small number of participants. This is not a-priori a
    >reason to
    > > force this notation into private use.
    >Just to clarify: I have not at any point contended that the characters
    >in Michael's proposal must be considered PUA. I simply commented that I
    >had expected something with such little usage would be contested, which
    >by implication raised the question as to whether these characters should
    >be encoded in spite of their very limited usage.

    I think that was someone else..

    >In relation to that question, your suggestion
    > > One of our goals in this direction
    > > would be to enable publishers to support online editions of a large
    > > of fields without running into a hodge-podge of supported vs.
    > > characters.
    >seems to me to be worth consideration.

    I then wrote in the original thread:

    >>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.
    >In the modern world many forms of publication require interchange. For
    >example, anything that's HTML based does poorly with non-standardized
    >characters. So does storage in databases. If you can conceive of a digital
    >re-edition of a prominent work (including citation from) and can assume
    >that there's some realistic chance that technologies other than faximile
    >or PDF would be brought to bear, then you have the interchange
    >requirement, even if noone uses the notation for new text.
    >Over time, I'm becoming more supportive of Michael's stance of
    >inclusiveness in that direction. As a matter of basic parity, I just don't
    >see why we take such great pains to standardize extremely rare forms of
    >Han ideographs, but baulk at supporting our own writing system and its
    >extensions equally faithfully.

    but this would belong better as part of this more generic discussion.

    > > For historical notations, issues are different. If a modern notations
    > > completely replaced the historical notation, it should be treated the
    > > the same manner as archaic scripts, that is, the focus should be on
    > > needed or useful to support historians of the discipline. If a
    >notation was
    > > widespread before being supplanted, that would strengthen the case for
    > > supporting it, as the likelihood that symbols will be referenced in
    > > contexts is that much greater.
    >In this particular case, the notation was clearly not in widespread use.
    >The question then is whether it would be useful to linguists or
    >documenters of the history of linguistics. So far after 80 years, there
    >is no known indication that linguists have a use for these; Pullum and
    >Ladusaw were, in part, the latter, and did not find these in need of
    >documentation. Of course, that does not imply that other documenters
    >have no need, and there may be linguists for whom these would be useful
    >that are simply not known to us.

    These are good questions. But remember, the notation in question is also
    limited in another way: it applies to features not shared by many
    languages. I'm not an expert enough to know whether that adds another level
    of rarity, because it means the potential number of users of these
    characters was always limited, then and now.

    But let's consider an extreme, but for now hypothetical example. Assume a
    seminal work, for example comparable to Newton's works, that spawns an
    entire field or discipline. If such a work used notation that was quickly
    replaced by something else, it would still be useful to consider it for its
    historic aspect, even it only one author used it - as the presumption that
    such a work and its notation will be cited or explained by historians is
    clearly quite strong.


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