Re: Bantu click letters

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Thu Jun 10 2004 - 21:41:14 CDT

  • Next message: Anto'nio Martins-Tuva'lkin: "Re: Bantu click letters"


    And now you are answering arguments with irrelevancies.

    > >But the argument in this particular case hinges on a particular,
    > >nonce set of characters.
    > You use "nonce" very easily.

    Nonce: Occurring, used, or made only once or for a special occasion.

    You can, of course, quibble that this should be applied to only
    a single *token* of a character, but I think it applies fairly
    to the situation we are talking about: a single scholar's invention
    that developed no community of use, so saw no application beyond
    that one person's usage.

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

    The case to standardize them for use in interchange is different
    from the case to make a particular orthography in a particular
    (small) set of documents available online.

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


    > >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.

    Yes, it's a scare claim. It is trying to bludgeon the committee
    into thinking that their encoding is scholastically incomplete if
    it doesn't represent every invented character by every idiosyncratic
    scholar creating his or her own conventions out there.

    I claim that there are limits to what is useful to pursue in
    representing every squiggle.

    And *my* vision of Universal is that it is a hell of a lot more
    important to encode Avestan and Egyptian hieroglyphics, which
    have *large*, important literatures and large communities of
    users, rather than waste time on a dozen weird phonetic characters
    used by one scholar, characters rejected by his field, and not
    even significant enough to be listed in the premier work on
    phonetic symbol usage today, Pullum & Ladusaw.

    Wasting list time and committee time pursuing these things is
    *detracting* from the big prizes that need to be attained out
    there still, and fighting tooth and nail for Doke's "OWL" character
    is a strategic error on your part, undermining the good will and
    consensus you need to get the other important things done.
    > >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.

    O.k., *NOW* I'm pissed. If you are going to continue dragging things
    back to the Unicode list after I suggested that these discussions
    be dealt with offlist to argue out the issues, and THEN misrepresent
    my position, do me the courtesy of *quoting* the actual position you

    8. The pitchforks

    The etiology of these is unexplained. Dokes may have been
    reusing an existing symbol (mathematical or runic or Greek) and
    then flipping it for an additional semantic, just as he
    apparently created the lateral click character by flipping
    the glottal stop.

    In any case, again because this is a nonce orthography,
    the rationale for creating *new* characters for a
    standard encoding of them is weak. As an approximation, it
    would make just as much sense to use a psi and inverted psi,
    or Runic long branch madr and yr (16D8, 16E6).

    Note, in particular, the already approved encoding of
    rotated and flipped versions of Greek letters as symbols
    used in Ancient Greek musical notation. 1D201, 1D218,
    1D21E. A psi and the flipped psi symbol (1D218) would
    be sufficient to carry the distinction.

    Yeah, yeah, Michael, I know you are going to hit the roof
    about such a suggestion, since these symbols used by
    Dokes are part of a Latin phonetic orthography, and
    are not Runic or Greek. So spare us the detour into
    that lecture. My point is that given the unproductive
    nature of Doke's experiment here, and given that the conventions
    did *not* catch on to become part of any user community of
    Latin phonetic practice, there is no burning need to actually
    extend the *standard* list of Latin letters merely to have
    a means of representing a historic text for historic purposes.

    *Now* please explain to the list how the point I was
    making -- which I went to the effort to actually summarize
    for you -- is not good sense, shortly after you explain to them
    how you came to be the pundit of UCS philosophy.

    > >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.

    Which misses the point that there was (and to a certain extent even
    now *is*) a community of use for UPA. *Uralicists* use or have used
    UPA in *many* publications, in many contexts. We aren't talking about
    one Uralic expert who created a set of conventions that were
    not used by his colleagues.

    > >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.

    And your retort is irrelevant to the point I was making.


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