Re: Unicode, colours and (hiero)glyphs

From: saqqara (
Date: Fri Jan 27 2006 - 07:58:53 CST

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    Typographic aspects of texts (even use of colour) written in Latin scripts may carry nuances generally accepted as unhelpful to attempt to capture at a Unicode level yet important as part of higher level protocols. As far as I can determine, Egyptian Hieroglyphs do not present any new issues from the Unicode standards perspective - the additional dimension of colour can likewise be regarded as a nuance. The potential of enhanced meaning through form is an interesting feature of the hieroglyphic script but not so fundamental to historical usage of the script as to require a change to the principles of Unicode.

    Although it is true that some signs are more readily distinguished in isolation using coloured glyphs, this is rarely an issue in practice. For instance two of the circular signs N33 and D12 (in MdC notation) are usually instantly recognisable by both size and context, their semantics are different and their separate places in the Unicode standard do not need to be justified by colour conventions used to depict the signs.

    A hypothetical example of what would happen if colour were crucial. Suppose the signs (determinatives) for man and woman were to look IDENTICAL apart from skin colour (this is NOT the case in Egyptian where the characteristic sign shapes are also distinct). Unicode would still allocate a code for each on the basis these are clearly different characters. A monochrome font designer may or may not want to make some ad-hoc distinction in glyph appearance but that is another issue. No problem here for the Unicode character/glyph model.

    In fact of the 1000-2000 actual candidates for the set of hieroglyphs that might make up the initial Egyptian repertoire in the formal Unicode standard, this is not really a concern or problem anyway.

    Incidentally use of colour in hieroglyphs is a personal interest and beyond Unicode I'd be delighted to see an extension to the OpenType font specification to allow me to release a general purpose colour hieroglyph font. But I'm not holding my breath.

    Bob Richmond
    Saqqara Technology
      ----- Original Message -----
      To: 'Unicode Discussion'
      Sent: Friday, January 27, 2006 7:28 AM
      Subject: Unicode, colours and (hiero)glyphs

      Dear all!

      UNICODE might get a problem with colored/colorized glyphs (as may be the case with egyptian hieroglyphs), WHERE THE - DIFFERENT - COLOURS USED BY EGYPTIAN SCRIBES (not just black&white) might bear different meanings (or some difference in whatsoever maybe also pronounciation): the formal structure of the glyph is the same although their colourization varies.

      Does someone know something about this (problem)? Does colour in script eventually convey difference in meaning (or pronounciation, or feeling, or ...)


      Dieter Glade, Germany

      P.S.: If not, one could introduce this (just like it is with pictures, or todays - coloured - newpapers, headlines etc.) i.e. that coloured word convey different meaning etc. than words written in black& white.

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