Re: "French+" support by Unicode

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Wed Apr 09 2008 - 15:09:02 CDT

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    Marion Gunn said:

    > I believe it means, Dan, that ISO standards are international standards
    > published in at least two independent languages (European French and
    > British English), but Unicode standards are only commercial standards
    > published only in US (Anglo-American) English, but I could be wrong on
    > that point, so please do ask Unicode reps to confirm.

    Well, I'm a Unicode rep, and I'll confirm that that is incorrect.

    ISO standards *are* in fact International Standards (ISO's
    capitalization), but most of them are only published in

    ISO/IEC 10646, the main ISO International Standard in question
    here, is developed under JTC 1, by the rules codified in
    the JTC 1 Directives. Those directives state, regarding language:

    7.9.1 The languages of JTC 1 are English, French and Russian. In
    general, the work of JTC 1 and its subsidiary bodies may be in any one
    or more of the above-mentioned languages. However, meetings are
    conducted in any one of these. The Chairman or Convener is entitled
    to authorise participants to speak in a language other than that
    in which the meeting is conducted....

    That's it for the languages for the meetings. Regarding *documents*,
    the JTC 1 Directives state:

    8.3.4 One copy, in English or in French, or in both languages if
    available, of documents relating to JTC 1 ... shall be posted
    by the JTC 1 Secretariat to the JTC 1 web site in an acceptable
    document format as specified in Annex H ...

    And with similarly worded clauses for documents related to the
    SCs (subcommittees) and WGs (working groups) of JTC 1.

    There is nothing *requiring* JTC 1 documents, including CDs (committee
    drafts) and ballots, to be bilingual. On the other hand, there
    is nothing *preventing* it, either.

    The actual way this works out depends greatly on the editors
    of the standards in question, and the preferences of the SCs
    responsible for them.

    For ISO/IEC 10646, the standard is developed, balloted, and
    published in English. There is then an active volunteer effort
    which takes the published English version, translates it,
    and makes it available to ITTF for publication as an "(fr)"
    version of the standard.

    For ISO/IEC 14651 (collation), the standard is developed, balloted,
    and published simultaneously in both an "(en)" and a "(fr)" version,
    but as separate documents. And the understanding of the SC
    is that in case of any difference of interpretation between
    the (en) and the (fr) versions, the (en) prevails.

    For ISO/IEC 15924 (script codes), the standard is developed, balloted,
    and published as a bilingual (en/fr) document,
    with English in the left column and French in the right
    column, as parallel text, as can be seen here on the
    Unicode website:

    The reason why those particular standards are available in
    English and in French, although by 3 entirely different methods,
    has largely to do with the fact that their editors, to one
    degree or another, are all bilingual (at least) in English
    and French.

    Many *other* ISO standards are only ever developed
    in English and never get translated. This is easily confirmed
    by browsing the online ISO store. Of the 14 ISO standards
    published this week for which language and other ordering
    information are available today, 3 are available in English
    and French, 11 in English only.

    As regards the local varieties of English and French involved,
    JTC 1 rules don't favor British English and European
    French over North American English and French -- or for
    that matter Australian or Indian English or any other variety.
    Such issues as are distinguished in written forms, such
    as spelling and occasional word choice, tend to depend
    largely on the preferences of the respective editors.
    It is true that ITTF ( is based in Switzerland,
    and may in general favour continental usage ;-), but the ITTF editors
    seldom interfere in the actual balloted text of standards
    merely to fix spelling conventions or Americanisms in the

    For standards published by the Unicode Consortium, the text
    tends to be developed in American English, because the
    majority of the editors are domiciled in the U.S. -- although
    the editors do make an effort to comb out any regional
    quirks that would be puzzling to international English

    And there is certainly no aversion by the Unicode Consortium
    to having the standard available in other than English, but
    for the Unicode Standard in particular, translation is
    very challenging, because of the standard's size, its technical content,
    the production difficulties with charts and figures, and
    most of all the frequency of its updates.

    A French translation of Unicode 3.0 was developed with a
    great deal of effort by Patrick Andries and others of
    his colleagues in Canada, and posted online at:

    That was updated to Unicode 3.1, but the amount of effort required
    to update it again to Unicode 5.0 (and now 5.1) has outstripped
    the volunteer resources to do the translation, to date at

    As regards the statement that Unicode standards "are only
    commercial standards", that is an outdated bromide that doesn't
    really reflect the reality of standardization in the IT
    field in the 21st century.

    ISO, IETF, W3C, and the Unicode Consortium are all SDOs
    (Standards Development Organizations) developing important
    IT standards in use around the world. The fact that only
    ISO is a treaty-based organization, while W3C and the
    Unicode Consortium are industrial consortia, and the IETF
    consists mostly of self-appointed experts working by email,
    doesn't change the fact that all of us depend on the technical
    standards developed by those organizations (and numerous
    others) working well together for the international
    information infrastructure.


    > Scríobh Daniel Ehrenberg:
    > >> Also the differences between ISO
    > >> 10646 and Unicode 5.0, since ISO 10646 is bilingual.
    > >>
    > >
    > > What do you mean by "ISO 10646 is bilingual"? (I'm sorry, to your
    > > particular question, I don't know the answer, but I'm just wondering
    > > about this.)
    > >
    > > Dan

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