Re: Greek characters in IPA usage

From: Asmus Freytag (
Date: Mon Aug 17 2009 - 16:25:24 CDT

  • Next message: Roozbeh Pournader: "Re: Greek characters in IPA usage"

    On 8/17/2009 1:30 PM, Andreas Stötzner wrote:
    > I found the elaborate contributions from Asmus Freytag, Michael
    > Everson and Julian Bradfield most valuable. I wished the phoneticians
    > and IPAists would take notice of the amount of trouble we embark on
    > here to do *their* business …
    > Last but not least, this is not a question of typographic *geekness*.
    > It’s a systemic issue: are phonetic β, θ and χ the same characters as
    > the Greek β, θ and χ?
    > I think, beyond glyph shaping details, it all comes down to this
    > simple question.
    Well, for 20 years, more or less, Unicode has explicitly claimed they
    are. Millions of documents exist that use Unicode-encoded IPA. An untold
    number of them uses one or more of these three characters. Thousands of
    users have figured out some way to enter these characters, presumably,
    in many cases, by using Greek keyboard layers. Then there are the common
    tools they use to search, sort and otherwise process such data.

    Because of that, the question is no longer as simple as you state it. No
    longer can you simply focus on the ideal situation, but you also have to
    consider what will happen to all of these existing documents, as well as
    to the existing user base, and the tools they use.

    By the seemingly innocuous fact of adding new character codes, you are
    also changing the identity of the existing character codes. But habits
    of 20 years die slowly, so you can expect that some significant section
    of the user community will continue the old characters for new work
    (while all the old documents will survive unchanged).

    Your simple question needs to be restated:
    What is more appropriate:
    a) continue as before
    b) a disruptive continuity
    c) a less disruptive encoding that embodies a clean fallback

    My vote is for "c" (realized via VS). In my take, the "latinization"
    of these characters in the IPA context is primarily a typographical
    issue. There's little else that distinguishes them from ordinary
    alphabetical characters that are simply part of a special notation. They
    are not used in contrast with other shapes of the same letters. Using a
    VS allows that to be expressed, retains compatible support for all
    tools, and users who coninue in the old ways are "punished" by poor
    typography rather than by failed searches.


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