Re: The Phaistos Disc

From: Andrew West (
Date: Wed Apr 05 2006 - 03:34:48 CST

  • Next message: Michael Everson: "Re: The Phaistos Disc"

    On 05/04/06, Richard Wordingham <> wrote:
    > The Phaistos disk characters run up against one major objection from TUS 4.0
    > Section 1.1 (Coverage) Paragraph 3: 'Note, however, that the Unicode
    > Standard does not encode idiosyncratic, personal, novel, or private-use
    > characters, nor does it encode logos or graphics.'

    The Phaistos disc characters are not obviously idiosyncratic,
    personal, novel, or private-use characters. The fact that they are
    only found in a single primary source needs to be taken into account,
    but that is not a reason to automatically disqualify them from
    encoding. There are many characters in the standard that are encoded
    on the basis of usage in a single primary source, and can be
    considered to be idiosyncratic, but which are nevertheless encoded
    because that source is important and people quote from it (I'm
    thinking particularly of characters for phonetic notation here, but
    CJK ideographs are also a rich source for idiosyncratic, personal and
    novel characters).

    > The Phaistos disk
    > characters are not being encoded to enable meaning to be encoded -

    The fact that people do not necessarily know what any particular
    Phaistos disc character means is also not a valid reason not to encode
    them. There are many CJK-B and forthcoming CJK-C ideographs for which
    the meaning is unknown (my edition of the Kangxi dictionary has a long
    appendix listing characters whose meaning and/or pronunciation is
    unknown). When Chinese oracle bone characters are encoded (and this is
    now just a question of when not if), a large proportion of the
    characters will still be undeciphered, and it is inevitable that some
    of the characters encoded will be glyph variants of other characters,
    but that's something you just have to live with when dealing with
    undeciphered or semi-deciphered scripts. In the case of Phaistos, as
    Michael has pointed out, the fact that the symbols are created from
    individual stamps and they are all quite distinct from each other
    means that it highly unlikely that any of the proposed characters are
    simple glyph variants.

    > they are
    > proposed as a handy way to call up certain graphics, namely the pictures of
    > certain characters.

    I have to agree that the Phasitos characters are being proposed for
    encoding "as a handy way to call up certain graphics, namely the
    pictures of certain characters", but exactly what is wrong with that?
    Unicode does encode symbols (just take a look at the range of graphic
    symbols encoded in the Miscellaneous Symbols bloick), some commonly
    used and some at least as rare as the Phaistos characters. The Yijing
    Hexagram Symbols and TaiXuan Jing Symbols blocks are both obvious
    examples of a set of graphic symbols that are derived from a single
    source (the "Yi Jing" and "Taixuan Jing" respectively). I doubt that
    the Taixuan Jing symbols enjoy a greater usage than the Phaistos disc

    The Phaistos disc characters are required for serious, scholarly
    study, and I cannot see any reason to deny their user community the
    convenience, stability and consistency that encoded characters bring.


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