Re: Accessing alternate glyphs from plain text

From: John H. Jenkins (
Date: Wed Aug 11 2010 - 10:23:48 CDT

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    On Aug 11, 2010, at 8:18 AM, Doug Ewell wrote:

    > But to imply that because text always has a specific appearance, determining the underlying plain text is an artificial process that was imposed on us by computers seems wrong. We (meaning "readers of alphabetic scripts, at least Latin and Cyrillic") learn to recognize letters at an early age, but quickly run into additional glyphs we don't recognize, like certain cursive uppercase letters (especially G and Q) and the two-tier vs. one-tier lowercase a and g. Then we find out they are different forms of the same letter, and learn to read them the same, and that is the essence of "plain text"the underlying letters behind potentially differing glyphs.

    Just to illustrate Doug's point, suppose someone hands you a hand-written letter and asks you to copy it. To what extent do you attempt to fully recreate the format of the original? Most likely, you'll simply copy the letters and punctuation. If the letter has some specific formatting (such as underlining), you may attempt to recreate that. By and large, however, there would be no effort to recreate the non-paragraphing line breaks and definitely not any effort to recreate the original letter shapes. Copying the letter in this fashion is certainly acceptable under almost all circumstances--indeed, in many cases it would be preferred over, say, a photocopy--and it strongly suggests the existence of some sort of Platonic "plain text" which is the essence of what was written.

    Sin ap-Rhisiart
    John H. Jenkins

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