Re: chairless hamza

From: John Hudson (
Date: Fri Jan 04 2008 - 04:39:14 CST

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    arno wrote:

    > What they propose is
    > a letter that is non-joining when
    > a) initial
    > b) final
    > c) isolated i.e. final after a right-joining letter
    > but is transparent
    > after a dual joining letter AND at the same time
    > before a dual- or right joining letter.


    > (( I disagree, saying it is transparent only between lam and alef,
    > sitting above a connecting stroke in all other cases.
    > But this can wait till we have settled the first question.))

    > The questions are:
    > Can this be done in Unicode?
    > Can this be achieved by just changing the characteristics of U+0621?

    There is another way of looking at it, which produces a different question:

        Does anything need to be done in Unicode about it?

    As you indicated, in some conventional usage the hamza is dividing (a better term, I
    think, than non-joining), while in other conventional usage it is transparent according to
    context. So whichever way it is defined in Unicode, some mechanism must exist for the
    alternative usage: if it is defined as dividing, a mechanism is needed to make it display
    as transparent in appropriate contexts; if it is defined in some way as transparent then a
    mechanism is needed to make it display as dividing.

    I consider the variance in usage a matter of display, i.e. I think it would be a big
    mistake to use a different character for the hamza to achieve a different appearance or
    shaping behaviour, as this reduces ease of text comparison, spellchecking, sorting, etc.

    I suspect that inertia will decide this issue: it is possible to resolve the display of
    transparent hamza at the font level on top of the existing definition of U+0621, so I
    doubt if the UTC will see much impetus to make changes that might cause problems for
    existing implementations.

    Of course, different font and layout models have different capabilities. I know OpenType
    better than the others, and in that context there is not only the capability to resolve
    display of transparent hamza contextually but also user-controlled mechanisms to inhibit
    such display if a dividing hamza is preferred (e.g. turning off discretionary contextual
    alternates or treating the dividing hamza as a stylistic variant).

    John Hudson

    PS. I may not respond to further comments very promptly due to other commitments.

    Tiro Typeworks
    Gulf Islands, BC
    The Lord entered her to become a servant.
    The Word entered her to keep silence in her womb.
    The thunder entered her to be quiet.
                 -- St Ephrem the Syrian

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