Encoding Old Hungarian script

From: Michael Everson (everson@evertype.com)
Date: Fri Oct 31 2008 - 14:37:30 CST

  • Next message: André Szabolcs Szelp: "Re: Encoding of Teuthonista: Diacritics in parentheses"

    On 31 Oct 2008, at 11:09, Hosszu Gabor wrote:

    > We never asked Michael Everson to make standard for the Szekler-
    > Hungarian Rovas.

    It seems from the tone of your note that I will have to defend myself
    here.

    I don't need to be "asked" to work on the encoding of scripts. It is
    what I do and have done for something like 14 years now. On 1998-01-18
    I published an exploratory proposal for encoding Old Hungarian -- http://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC2/WG2/docs/n1686/n1686.htm
      -- it was in part based on an analysis of your font, as well as
    evidence in a 1975 publication by Fehrn Walter Anna. You and I and
    some others engaged in some discussion about the encoding principles
    for Old Hungarian, though it was not possible to come to consensus, in
    part because of the question of ligatures. I wrote about this on
    1998-05-02 -- http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n1758.pdf -- and
    then nothing happened in terms of encoding Old Hungarian. Nothing
    until June of this year, when I tried -- with the support of the
    Script Encoding Initiative -- to make progress.

    > However, in July of 2008 Michael Everson asked me to organize a
    > meeting in Budapest for the Hungarian Rovas writers. I did so.

    Yes, you did, and we ended up at the end of that meeting with an
    agreement as to how to proceed. We had agreed a number of points. We
    agreed that ligatures were to be handled as sequences, because
    ligation in Old Hungarian is productive. We agreed to ensure that the
    encoding would support in the first place the historical corpus of Old
    Hungarian text as part of European heritage, and in the second place
    the additional characters used by people who promulgate the use of the
    script for cultural purposes. We had agreed that the name of the
    script in the English language should be the usual term used for the
    script in the English language, "Old Hungarian".

    > But after this meeting it become clear for us that Everson-Szelp's
    > proposal is based on some relics from the Middle Ages and some
    > extensions for the "revivalists".

    Quite so. That is what we agreed.

    > I refer to the original proposal of Michael Everson and Andre
    > Szabolcs Szelp (http://std.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n3483.pdf,
    > 2008-08-03).

    You may refer to this document, but it was superseded by the bilingual
    proposal http://www.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n3531.pdf, 2008-10-12,
    also by myself and Andr Szabolcs Szelp. The translation was made by
    dm Jo.

    > In this proposal there are a lot of sharp political (!) related
    > statements and a strong degrading approach to the "revivalists".

    But Gbor, you know perfectly well that I am interested in alphabets,
    not politics, and certainly not in insulting anybody. I think you are
    posturing here because you think it is a way to discredit (1) the
    agreement we made in July in Budapest and (2) anything that doesn't
    fit in with your own bias as to how you want Old Hungarian encoded.
    That's just not how we work in international standardization.

    Let's be honest about N3483. It *does* say: "Popular but often (very)
    unscientific works began to be published, and the script began to gain
    popularity, particularly in circles interested in folklore and
    Hungarian traditional culture. These popularizing textbooks about
    the Old Hungarian script feature some non-traditional additions to the
    character repertoire, based on attempts by their authors to map the
    old script to the modern Latin orthography of Hungarianeach trying to
    impart his vision of the revived script to their audience."

    And you know what? A lot of material published about Old Hungarian
    script *is* unscientific. Very unscientific. Some people claim that
    Old Hungarian derives from Sumerian. Some claim that Chinese derives
    from Old Hungarian. None of this passes scientific muster.

    What else does N3483 say? It says: "The modern corpus (modern defined
    as beginning with the 20th century) has seen a huge increase in the
    last two decades, the script being used by traditionalists and
    enthusiasts. Some of these uses are simply decorative, but a number of
    books, magazines, and teaching materials including folklore story-
    books for children have been published. Very recently the script has
    been adopted by esoteric gurus and mystical groups, which propagate
    fictitious ancient religions (for example, a variety of shamanism
    called Arvisura *truth-telling) and by politically radical right-
    wing groups. (Similar use has been made of the Germanic runes in
    mystical or right-wing contexts.)"

    And you know what? The modern corpus *has* seen a huge increase
    recently. And there are lots of books including folklore story-books
    for children which have been published. I have some of them. And,
    indeed, there are some shamanistic and right-wing usages which have
    been made of the script. I have some of those materials too.

    Yes, we took this text out when we published N3531. That doesn't make
    it any the less accurate. And I think both Szabolcs and I will reject
    a suggestion that we wrote the text in order to (1) do a disservice to
    Old Hungarian, which we wish to encode, or (2) to insult anybody.

    > When in end of July 2008 the Community of the Hungarian Rovas
    > Writers were formed (as a wide internet-based working group) M.
    > Everson and A. Sz. Szelp modified the text of their proposal,
    > however, they did not change their view.

    What "view" do you think that we have?

    > Especially dm Jo supports the Everson-Szelp proposal.

    I admire dm very much. He is a bright young man at the beginning of
    his career, inquisitive and helpful. His translation helped us to
    improve the proposal. And I dislike your rhetoric: "the Everson-Szelp
    proposal" is as quite an adequate proposal, describing accurately the
    linguistic facts of the writing system and laying out a scheme for
    encoding Old Hungarian which is congruent with our encoding practice.

    > Our view is basically different: our statement is that the Szekler-
    > Hungarian Rovas never became extinct, it was continuously used. It
    > was under development during the whole history. That is the reason
    > why the sources of our proposal are based on a wider range of relics
    > and practice from the historical time to nowadays.

    Evidently your desire here is to avoid calling the script "Old
    Hungarian", because you seem to base your view on your assertion that
    Szabolcs and I believe that Old Hungarian died out. So, it seems, you
    believe that if you "prove" that it did not die out, then our use of
    the word "Revivalist" and "Revived Old Hungarian" cannot be
    maintained. Evidently you dislike the word "revived" and "revivalist".
    Well, firstly, there is nothing pejorative in either word. And
    secondly, even if you can prove that one or two people mananged to
    copy down the Old Hungarian script every 40 or 50 years since the 12th
    century, that is not *at all* the same thing as "proving" that the
    script was in continuous use.

    Old Hungarian seems to have been in fairly wide use (modulo general
    literacy) until the Middle Ages, but it is indisputable that the Latin
    script supplanted it. *Every* literate Hungarian today reads the Latin
    script. Some tens of thousands -- maybe even as many as a couple
    hundred thousand -- of people have learned to use the script, but few
    of them read it as fluently as they read Latin, and none of them have
    given up Latin for it. The cultural revival of the script is
    fascinating, praiseworthy, and notable. It's important. That's why we
    want to encode Old Hungarian in the UCS. But (1) none of that changes
    the fact that the name of the script in the English language (*my*
    native language, thanks, which should be respected just as much as you
    want *your* language to be), and (2) none of that changes the fact
    that popular knowledge of and usage of the script is the result of the
    work of revivalist activists in the early and late twentieth century.

    *Your* work, Gbor, is a part of that revivalist activism, and is as
    praiseworthy as the work of Adorjn Magyar and Sndor Forrai is. But
    what are you doing, attacking the people who are responsible for the
    script even being considered for encoding at this time?

    > The core of our proposal, the "Rovs Szabvny" was accepted and
    > supported (based on voting) by the World Congress of the World
    > Federation of the Hungarians (August 20th, 2008).
    >
    > The N3527 proposal (including the whole character set of the "Rovs
    > Szabvny") was accepted and supported (based on voting) by the
    > "Alive Rovas" Symposium in October 4th, 2008.

    I'll have to let Szabolcs put the nature of the Congress and Symposium
    into context for readers of this list. Regarding N3527, it contains
    many provisions which go against the way that we work encoding scripts
    in the Universal Character Set. Szabolcs and I are preparing a
    document which will compare the proposals in N3527, in N3531, and
    N3526 (a proposal by Gbor Bakonyi).

    With best regards,
    Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com



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