Re: Obsolete characters

From: Mark Davis (
Date: Fri Jan 16 2009 - 11:15:49 CST

  • Next message: Howard Gregory: "Fwd: Obsolete characters"

    Thanks for your message. You make some good points about IPA. For UTR#39,
    the IPA characters (that are not used in modern languages) were marked as
    'technical' also. For the character picker, we're looking at having IPA
    characters just as a separate category. Because the categorization there is
    not a partition, we can repeat characters that are otherwise Latin, Greek,

    Thinking about the IPA characters in particular, probably the best way to
    characterize the [ɩɷɼɿʅ-ʇʓʖʗʚʞʠʣʥʦʨ-ʯ] characters would be not as 'archaic'
    - since they are in use in other traditions - but as 'unofficial', or some
    other term that indicates that they are not part of the current IPA, but are
    in common technical use.

    > (Finally, I do realize this whole issue is probably a tempest in a tea pot
    and has
    > gotten much more complex than you wanted/expected.)

    Not a problem - I realize that in this case -- unlike the calm, temperate
    responses on emoji -- that emotions are likely to run high, but I'm getting
    good feedback.

    Floating a strawman proposal with a specific categorization always gets more
    of a response than just simply asking for input. And the responses help to
    make it clear where the question itself was not clear.


    On Fri, Jan 16, 2009 at 05:48, Arle Lommel <> wrote:

    > Hi Mark,
    > Your explanation raises an interesting issue for some of the scripts. By
    > the definition given below, *all* of the IPA characters not otherwise
    > found in Unicode ranges would be "obsolete" or "archaic" since IPA is *
    > never* "customarily used in modern languages in typical publications" (it
    > appears only in specialist publications). I don't mention this to pick on
    > your definition, but to point out the inherent difficulty in this sort of
    > judgment and in finding a single definition suitable for such a
    > determination in all contexts.
    > A separate issue is whether the denomination of these items as obsolete or
    > archaic is expected to be descriptive or normative (and thus prescriptive,
    > or at least representative of the judgment of standards groups) in nature. I
    > see two potential motivations at work in calling things obsolete or archaic.
    > In most cases they probably won't contradict each other, but in the IPA case
    > they do. One is to describe what *is* used, regardless of whether or not
    > one *should* use it. The other is to state what is official or "right",
    > even if actual use runs contrary to it. In that sense, to call the set of
    > characters "obsolete" would be to confirm the International Phonetic
    > Association's official pronouncements at the expense of current "vernacular"
    > usage.
    > To make the statement that such and such characters are obsolete or archaic
    > thus requires us to know which of the goals is at work. It also explains why
    > John Wells would provide an answer so different from mine. Neither response
    > is wrong per se, but each depends on assumptions about the basis for the
    > question itself, and even with your clarification (which would help in most
    > cases), the answer for IPA isn't clear.
    > If the goal is to set forth what is currently standard, then anything not
    > found on the chart found at
    > (to
    > pick one location) should be called obsolete, thus arriving at John Wells'
    > answer (although note that four years ago the answer would have been
    > slightly different since IPA changed in 2005).
    > If the goal is to set forth what people actually use, then I think an
    > answer more like mine would be arrived at. I certainly assumed (without even
    > consciously considering it) that your question was to describe actual
    > practice by working linguists. I didn't even realize until this morning that
    > John Wells probably assumed a rather different basis for the question and
    > wasn't just being doctrinaire or a stickler.
    > So I think the basis for the determination needs to be made clear and an
    > answer made according to the purpose stated. Also, since I don't really know
    > what the practical implications for excluding identifiers would be, I don't
    > know how much it matters in this particular case. If there are real
    > implications for end users, I would suggest that Unicode consult with SIL
    > before making this determination since they are tied into the needs of
    > actual users more than any other group I know of. If there are no real
    > implications for end users, then by all means follow the official
    > recommendation as to what is current, because then there actually is a
    > didactic value in letting users know what is considered current practice.
    > (Finally, I do realize this whole issue is probably a tempest in a tea pot
    > and has gotten much more complex than you wanted/expected.)
    > -Arle
    > Mark Davis <> scripsit
    > Note that there may have been some confusion from my message. By "obsolete"
    > or "archaic", we don't mean that the character itself is deprecated or that
    > people shouldn't use it; what we mean is that it isn't customarily used in
    > modern languages in typical publications (corner newspapers, magazines,
    > etc.). For example, you wouldn't expect to see words written in Cuneiform in
    > the NY Times. Of course, they may occur in technical journals, especially
    > those dealing with archaic languages, or have occasional decorative use.

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