Re: Boustrophedon (was: Re: Question about the directionality of "Old Hungarian" (document N3531))

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Fri Nov 07 2008 - 05:39:16 CST

  • Next message: Ruszlan Gaszanov: "RE: Question about the directionality of "Old Hungarian" (document N3531)"

    On 7 Nov 2008, at 10:25, Andreas Stötzner wrote:

    > I think, Michael Everson has a point here. Though we have the runic
    > range named “Runic” and not “Old Germanic” we have the old
    > turkish ‘Runes’ named “Old Turkic” because *run-* is a
    > germanic root and as such inappropriate to the turkish script. In
    > the same sense I would refuse the notion “Alphabet” for anything
    > that is not descendant from Old Semitic/Hebrew or Greek.

    Quite sensible. I believe everyone agrees that Old Turkic and Old
    Hungarian are "runiform" rather than "runes". It would not have been
    the worst thing in the world to have "Turkic Runes" and "Hungarian
    Runes" as script names in the standard, but as Old Turkic is not named
    the former now it would be best to be consistent. Thus "Old Hungarian"
    is the best name for the script, in keeping with long-standing practice.

    > If “székely-magyar rovás” makes sense in Hungarian this is by
    > no means a reason for claiming “Szekler-Hungarian Rovas Writing”
    > makes equally sense in English.


    > In German, “Szekler-Schrift” or “Altungarisch” would be
    > decent, but not “Szekler-Ungarische Rovas-Schrift” – this is
    > just a mess.

    In German, "Altungarisch" is the established term.

    > To conclude, naming it just “Rovás” might eventually be
    > acceptable, such [treating] it as “Bopomofo” or “Thai Lue”.

    Except of course that the diacritic would not be permitted. And it
    begs the question because there is an established name for the script
    in English.

    > Yet it would be as intelligent as naming Greek “Glyphs” just
    > because this is the prorietary name for “engraved characters” in
    > that language.
    > – Since “Old Hungarian” is the appropriate, unambiguous and
    > established (!) term in English, it should be that.

    I'd like to share some sources now. Note, please, that these are all
    books about the history and study of writing systems, two of which
    indeed are foundational texts for the scientific study of writing
    (Gelb and Jensen):

    Coulmas, Florian. 1996. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems.
    ISBN 0-631-19446-0. Pp. 366-368.
    "Old Hungarian"

    Diringer, David. 1947. The Alphabet. A Key to the History of Mankind.
    London: Hutchinson's Scientific and technical Publications. Pp. 314-315.
    "Early Hungarian Script"

    Gaur, Albertine. 1992. A History of Writing. London: British Library.
    ISBN 0-7123-0270-0. P. 143.
    "Old Hungarian"

    Gelb, I. J. 1952. A study of writing: The foundations of grammatology.
    Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 142, 144.
    "Old Hungarian"

    Haarmann, Harald. 1990. Universalgeschichte der Schrift. ISBN
    3-593-34346-0. P. 519-520.
    "Die altungarische Schrift"

    Jensen, Hans. 1969. Die Schrift in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart.
    Berlin: VEB Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften. Pp. 416-420.
    "Die altungarische Schrift"

    Nakanishi, Akira. 1994. Writing Systems of the World. Rutland & Tokyo:
    Charles E. Tuttle. ISBN 0-8048-1654-9. P. 28.
    "Old Hungarian script"

    Senseido Encycolopaedia. 2001. 言語学大辞典. 三省堂. ISBN
    4-385-15177-6. Pp. 1150-1151.
    ロヴァーシュ文字 <rovāshu moji> "Ancient Hungarian Runic
    characters" (Note here that while Japanese borrows the Hungarian term,
    they give a standard English term which does not. Note too that
    Japanese author Nakanishi uses the term "Old Hungarian".

    I can find no authoritative linguistic material in English which calls
    this script "Rovás".

    I do not, as Gábor Hosszú has suggested, try to "degrade" him here by
    disagreeing. I am doing my job, which is to ensure that the correct
    terminology is used in the Universal Character Set. We have always
    followed the standard linguistic terminology, and we should do so here.

    (I don't "win" these arguments all the time either; I preferred Fraser
    and Pollard but accepted Lisu and Miao which also have currency
    amongst linguists. But "rovás" doesn't have currency in English, and
    can't be written correctly since character names can't have the
    accent, and can't be reliably pronounced by English-speaking users of
    the standard anyway.)

    With regards,
    Michael Everson *

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