Re: Cuneiform Signs

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Tue Jun 19 2007 - 14:39:12 CDT

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    Raymond Mercier asked:

    > I am new to the Cuneiform block (U+12000), but having some familiarity
    > with the standard neo-Assyrian sign list and ideogram names as given
    > by Labat (and certainly others), I am puzzled by the numerous differences
    > affecting both the glyphs adopted for the Unicode chart and the names
    > there assigned to them. The glyphs seem to be a rather idiosyncratic
    > mixture of standard Neo-Assyrian forms (1223E NA, for example) and
    > those from a much earlier Era.

    Please see the explanation of the Sumero-Akkadian Cuneiform encoding
    in Section 14.10 of the Unicode Standard, 5.0:

    In particular, the encoded repertoire "is comprehensive from the Ur III
    period onward." In other words, it represents Ur III Neo-Sumerian, as
    well as Old, Middle, and Neo-Assyrian, and so on. As such, it cannot
    simply reflect Neo-Assyrian directly.

    > As to the names, why could those used in Labat not have been used,
    > or at least Karel Píska's alternate forms (which avoid diacriticals) ?

    Again, because the names needed to be developed to be applied
    consistently to the entire encoded repertoire.

    > There is a perfectly clear list of signs and names in Píska's site
    >, and in any case the
    > UTC (of all people) should have no objection to names like GÌS, or SÚ.

    The UTC is, however, bound by the constraints on character names
    in ISO/IEC 10646, which limits character names to [-A-Z0-9].

    Also, Piska's lists are not character names (neither of the
    Neo-Assyrian Syllabary A, nor the Akkadian Sign List (2001), but
    rather lists of signs and then lists of transliterations for
    those signs.

    What would be most helpful for Assyriologists, it seems to me, would
    be if someone familiar both with the Unicode encoding of
    Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform characters and with the standard
    Neo-Assyrian sign lists in particular, would post up the
    representation of Neo-Assyrian in terms of the Unicode characters.
    Such a table might be quite interesting as a Unicode Technical
    Report, for instance, and would make it easier for others
    approaching the Unicode encoding from scratch to understand its
    intended applicability to Neo-Assyrian texts.


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