Re: Bantu click letters

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 21:00:03 CDT

  • Next message: Michael Everson: "Re: Bantu click letters"

    At 18:10 -0700 2004-06-10, Kenneth Whistler wrote:

    >But the argument in this particular case hinges on a particular,
    >nonce set of characters.

    You use "nonce" very easily.

    >We have this one scholar, who invented a bunch of characters in the
    >20's to represent click sounds that nobody was doing justice to at
    >that point, either in understanding their phonetics or making
    >sufficiently accurate distinctions in their recording. Bully for
    >Dokes -- it was an important advance in the field of Khoisan studies
    >and the phonetics of clicks. But even though he published his
    >analysis, using his characters, nobody else chose to adopt his
    >character conventions.

    That they did not *adopt* them as standard representations does not
    mean that there is no need to *use* them in interchangeable text.

    In fairness to Professor Doke, he published from 1925 to at least
    1966. Let's see what he did, shall we?

    >It comes down then to a *prospective* claim that someone *might*
    >want to digitize the classic Dokes publication and that if they
    >did so they would require that the particular set of weird
    >phonetic letters used by Dokes would have to be representable
    >in Unicode plain text in order for that one publication to be
    >made available electronically. (Or a few other publications that
    >might cite Dokes verbatim, of course.)

    It seems reasonable to suppose that such might be the case.

    >Well, in terms of requirements, I consider that more than a little
    >cart before the horse. I'd be more sympathetic if someone was
    >actually *trying* to do this and had a technical problem with
    >representing the text accurately for an online edition which was
    >best resolved by adding a dozen character to the Unicode Standard.
    >Then, at least there would be a valid *use* argument to be made,
    >as opposed to a scare claim that 50 years from now someone *might*
    >want to do this and not be able to if we don't encode these
    >characters right now.

    Scare claim? You think I'm making a scare claim about the UCS? Our
    visions of "universal" must differ rather a lot.

    >Right *now* anyone could (if they had the rights) put a version of
    >Dokes online using pdf and an embedded font, and it would be perfectly
    >referenceable for anyone wanting access to the content of the
    >document. True, the dozen or so "weird" characters in the
    >orthography wouldn't have standard encodings, so searching inside
    >the document for them wouldn't be optimal.

    Come clean, Ken. You suggested offline that it would be OK with you
    for the Khoisan scholars to use Runic MADR or YR to represent the
    VOICELESS and VOICED RETROFLEX CLICKs. *That* is not UCS philosophy,
    and it is not good sense.

    >But I don't hear people yelling about the online Unicode Standard is
    >crippled for use by people who wish to refer to it because you can't
    >do an automated search for <ksha> in it which will accurately find
    >all instances of Devanagari ksha in the text.

    KA + VIRAMA + SSA. Works every time, if you are using Unicode.

    >Finally, if someone actually wants to do a redacted publication of
    >Dokes for its *content*, as opposed its orthographic antiquarian
    >interest, it is perfectly possible to do so with an updated set of
    >orthographic conventions that would make it more accessible to
    >people used to modern IPA usage.

    Many Uralicists prefer IPA today, but the baroque weirdness of UPA
    usage was encoded in order to allow them to cite original forms.
    Whether they also transcribe UPA into IPA is a different question.

    >Usability of published or republished documents is not limited to
    >slavish facsimile reproduction of their orginal form -- for that we
    >have facsimiles. :-) I love Shakespeare, but I don't have to read
    >his plays with long ess's and antique typefaces.

    Face is irrelevant. And the long ess is encoded for those who need or
    want to use it.

    Michael Everson * * Everson Typography *  *

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