Re: The Phaistos Disc

From: Erkki Kolehmainen (
Date: Tue Apr 11 2006 - 02:12:54 CST

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    I tend to agree with Ken on this one, too.

    Regards, Erkki I. Kolehmainen

    Kenneth Whistler wrote:

    > Michael,
    >>If I am interested in searching the internet for all the examples of
    >>people who are discussing the use of the PLUMED HEAD, I cannot do so
    >>because there is nothing I can search for. Graphics are not
    >>searchable, and neither are PUA code points.
    > Don't head off into speciousness, however. Encoding a set of
    > Phaistos Disc signs in Unicode isn't going to change any one
    > of the millions of web citations of "Phaistos" (or however many
    > 10's of thousands of them might actually contain one or more
    > actual graphic citations of one or more "characters" from the
    > disk) to make it Unicode-searchable text. And most of whatever
    > currently exists will *never* change.
    > All that would happen after a successful encoding of the
    > symbol set in Unicode would be that your CSUR page and some
    > other pioneering web pages would convert text over in a few
    > years, and you would end up with some hundreds (perhaps
    > eventually some thousands) of web pages which would clone
    > around from page to page the same single "text" and include some
    > discussion of it.
    > It is doubtful, in the long view, whether this represents
    > any true net gain for scholarship in this particular case,
    > over the simple ability to search for "Phaistos" and then
    > create summary sites that bring together links for the
    > more serious work (and ignoring the multitudinous crackpottery).
    >>>The "convenience" point is debatable, as I don't see the type of
    >>>keyboard gymnastics necessary for typing obscure codepoints to be
    >>>much more convenient than inserting pictures, in most cases.
    >>Encoded characters can be searched for. Pictures (in this sense) cannot.
    > Your argument would make more sense in the case of large
    > corpuses. But in the case of the Phaistos Disc, there is one
    > single document, of just 241 total glyph instances --
    > and every significant search turns up *exactly* the same text.
    >>>That's three mentions of web searches. I suspect that this is a
    >>>specious argument. What would be the point of searching on Phastian
    >>>(?!) "text", given that it has no agreed meaning? Even when
    >>>referring to existing academic references, would there be any point
    >>>to searching for such text?
    >>Not at all. No character or phrase in my own CSUR web page which
    >>contains the entire Phaistos Text can be searched for. Google ignores
    >>all of the characters.
    > This is, of course, erroneous. A search of "Phaistos Everson" not
    > only turns up the page, it ranks it #1 for that search in Google.
    > You are right that you can't do an internet search *into* the
    > Phaistos Test, but like Mike, I maintain that *that* is irrelevant
    > and pointless in this case. It is a *less* interesting search than
    > searching on combinations of "Phaistos" plus author/researcher,
    > for example.
    >>>>* the Phaistos Disc characters are used at least as much as most of
    >>>>the 40,000+ CJK-B characters
    >>>I see no merit in this argument.
    >>I do.
    > Mike is right about this one, too.
    >>>Chinese is a productive writing system for which Unicode has no
    >>>productive model, therefore a large number of rarely used characters
    >>>will be encoded for completeness.
    >>I'm talking about thousands of characters which no one knows, which
    >>no one uses, and some of them were never real characters used outside
    >>of dictionaries.
    > The fact remains that a substantial majority of CJK Ext-B comes
    > *from* its usage in Chinese dictionaries, as demonstrated by the
    > 55,812 kIRGHanyuDaZidian records in Unihan.txt. Shrugging that off
    > would be tantamount to shrugging off lexical evidence of English
    > words cited in the OED.
    >>>The value is measured not by the usage of a subset of characters,
    >>>but by the usage of the writing system. Also, since the Extension B
    >>>characters are genuine new adds, not compatibility characters, slow
    >>>acceptance is to be expected as fonts, typing methods, and SMP
    >>>support in general roll out slowly.
    >>No one uses them.
    > This is just false. They are used in digital editions of Chinese
    > classics, including, of course, the classic dictionaries.
    >>>Also, I wuld like to know what you mean by "used" here.
    >>>Specifically, how much of this is inline? Very little, I suspect.
    >>Our proposal gives some examples. It doesn't take a whole lot of
    >>imagination to see the utility of encoding these characters. And
    >>Mike, if you don't want to use Phaistos Disc characters, that's
    >>really fine with me. It's not an argument against their encoding,
    > Nor is imagining the utility of encoding them much of an argument
    > for their encoding.
    > Karl Pentzlin got to the heart of the issue, in my opinion:
    >>btw, I prefer the term "symbols" resp. "symbol set" to "characters"
    >>resp. "script", as thhe Phaistos Disc is not yet proven to show
    >>"characters" of a "script".
    >>(This again is no counterargument for encoding, as Unicode already
    >>contains a lot of symbols and symbol sets).
    >>Speaking of "symbols" makes the "undeciphered" argument irrelevant,
    >>as symbols stand for themselves.
    >>Personally, I see the reason for a encoding the Phaistos Disc symbol
    >>set like the reason for encoding Chess symbols (U+2654...U+265F)
    >>or Tai Xuan Jing symbols (U+1D300...U+1D35F): There is a well-defined
    >>symbol set which is needed by a wide user community in plain text.
    > If you and John Jenkins would stop talking about the Phaistos Disc
    > "script" and the "users of the script", there would be much less
    > controversy about encoding.
    > Furthermore, your suggested properties aggravate the problem,
    > by claiming that these are all "letters" (gc=Lo). That claim
    > has undesirable implications -- for example, they would automatically
    > be included in the definition of identifiers.
    > The straightforward way to approach a Unicode encoding is to
    > encode the Phaistos 45 sign list *as* a sign list and be done
    > with it. 45 symbols, used in discourse about the decipherment
    > of this thingum from Crete. Add one more oblique stroke symbol
    > for the people that want to talk about that mark on the basic
    > 45 signs. The encodings of "punctuation" for a sign separator and
    > start of text are just bogus. Those are artifacts of unrolling
    > the delineation of text elements from the disc, and are no more
    > needed encoded as "Phaistos script" punctuation characters than we
    > needed characters to represent the lines that box out text on
    > cuneiform tablets.
    > So no script assignment.
    > No letters. No punctuation.
    > 45 + 1 signs. gc=So. PHAISTOS DISC SIGN YADDA YADDA
    > And you'd have an encoding that would sail through.
    > But what you and John are attempting here to turn an undeciphered
    > artifact into a Unicode script and letters and punctuation that
    > text processes implemented in Unicode systems would then
    > start interacting with is -- and I say it again -- just bogus.
    > --Ken

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