Re: not font designers?

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sun Nov 07 2004 - 21:23:41 CST

  • Next message: Mark E. Shoulson: "Re: not font designers?"

    Michael Everson <everson at evertype dot com> wrote:

    >> But didn't someone already point out that with OpenType tables, it
    >> would be relatively easy to map "alternate" Phoenician glyphs to the
    >> existing Hebrew code points?
    > You're not helping, Doug.

    Apparently my post was badly misunderstood.

    Michael said he believes that Elaine attributes his support for separate
    encoding of Phoenician to his role as a font designer, and not a Semitic

    I replied, in essence, that a font designer per se would have no
    particular stake in seeing Phoenician separately encoded, as opposed to
    being considered a font variant of Hebrew (as some Semitic scholars
    apparently want), because OpenType tables provide a perfectly good
    mechanism for implementing font variants.

    Therefore, since there is no font-design limitation, Michael's desire to
    encode Phoenician separately from Hebrew must be based on something

    Like the fact that they are different scripts.

    > So what? I can map Latin glyphs to Cyrillic code points if I want to
    > transliterate. That's transliteration from one script to another.

    Exactly my point. (You wouldn't even need to provide alternate Latin
    glyphs for many of the code points!) Therefore, no designer of OpenType
    fonts would use font-design limitations to argue that Latin and Cyrillic
    should be disunified. Instead, they would make a disunification
    argument on the basis that Latin and Cyrillic are different scripts.

    This is EXACTLY the situation with Hebrew and Phoenician.

    I stated months ago, back when the Hebrew/Phoenician topic was occupying
    99.9% of list traffic, that I believe Hebrew and Phoenician are separate
    scripts and that on that basis, Phoenician should be separately encoded.
    I still believe that. Nothing in my posts of the past day or so is
    intended to contradict that.

    And since "who we are and what we do" may be used as a criterion for
    judging the validity of my position, I will state again that I am
    neither a font designer nor a Semitic scholar. I have a scholarly
    interest in the history and evolution of writing systems, but to call me
    a "scholar" would be unfair to those who have devoted years of formal
    study to the subject.

    I have also been a contributor to the public Unicode list for the past 7
    years, and have been an "invited expert" on Unicore for the past year
    and a half, so I think I have at least a minimal sense for the kind of
    things UTC typically unifies and the kind they do not. It seems clear
    to me that the differences between Hebrew and Phoenician, both
    historical and visual, place Hebrew and Phoenician squarely in the
    "disunify" camp, based on 7 years of precedent.

    I would add that while Hebrew and Phoenician are closely related—no
    argument there—my understanding is that most scholars of Greek and
    writing systems in general consider Greek to be descended from
    Phoenician, but they do not consider Greek to be descended from Hebrew.
    It's hard to start with that and conclude that Hebrew and Phoenician are
    the same, is it not?

    This is the last I will have to say on encoding Phoenician separately
    vs. unifying it with Hebrew. I had not intended to write about that
    subject at all, only to address the bogus "font designer" argument.
    Quite honestly, I thought the matter of encoding Phoenician had been
    decided some months ago, and I am disappointed to see it come up again.

    -Doug Ewell
     Fullerton, California

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