Re: The aim of Unicode

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Mon Nov 08 2004 - 20:25:34 CST

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    At 05:14 PM 11/8/2004, Michael Everson wrote:
    >At 00:47 +0000 2004-11-09, Peter Kirk wrote:
    >>The aim of Unicode standardisation is surely to define a single and
    >>unambiguous representation of text.
    >Not at all, not in the least but. It's to provide encoding for the world's
    >writing systems. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. It allows the chaos
    >of the world's writing systems to flourish quite safely.

    Actually, Peter is on to something, although he overstates it.

    The aim is indeed to avoid multiple equivalent representations--where
    possible. If that was not an aim, there would be no Han Unification, and
    Fraktur would be its own script.

    In some cases multiple representations of text were introduced
    deliberately; in the majority of cases they reflect limitations of
    technology, such as the need for backwards compatibility. In some cases
    they are artifacts of the political nature of the standardization process.
    And in some other cases, there's a recognition that there is no single and
    unambiguous representation possible.

    The key to remember, and it's one of the defining characteristics of the
    work on Unicode, that there is no general principle that can adjudicate all
    cases. What may appear clear-cut and black & white in one area, is
    gray-on-gray, shadows and fog in another.

    That's why we need a series of interlocking committees with multiple
    circles of experts to weigh the evidence and that's why we can have these
    fun arguments.

    And that leads precisely to the freedom and non-prescriptive aspects of the
    standard that Michael values.


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