Re: Are Latin and Cyrillic essentially the same script?

From: André Szabolcs Szelp (
Date: Wed Nov 17 2010 - 10:18:19 CST

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    AFAIR the reservations of WG2 concerning the encoding of Jangalif
    Latin Ь/ь as a new character were not in view of Cyrillic Ь/ь, but
    rather in view of its potential identity with the tone sign mentioned
    by you as well. It is a Latin letter adapted from the Cyrillic soft
    sign, like the Jangalif character. Function, as you point out, is not
    a distinctive feature. The different serif style which you pointed out
    cannot be seen as discriminating features of character identity,
    especially not in a time of bad typography (and actually lack of latin
    typographic tradition in China of the time).


    On Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 5:08 PM, Karl Pentzlin <> wrote:
    > As shown in N3916:
    > = L2/10-356, there exists a Latin letter which resembles the Cyrillic
    > soft sign Ь/ь (U+042C/U+044C). This letter is part of the Jaꞑalif
    > variant of the alphabet, which was used for several languages in the
    > former Soviet Union (e.g. Tatar), and was developed in parallel to the
    > alphabet nowadays in use for Turk and Azerbaijan, see:
    > .
    > In fact, it was proposed on this base, being the only Jaꞑalif letter
    > missing so far, since the ꞑ (occurring in the alphabet name itself)
    > was introduced with Unicode 6.0.
    > The letter is no soft sign; it is the exact Tatar equivalent of the
    > Turkish dotless i, thus it has a similar use as the Cyrillic yeru
    > Ы/ы (U+042B/U+044B).
    > In this function, it is a part of the adaptation of the Latin alphabet
    > for a lot of non-Russian languages in the Soviet Union in the 1920s,
    > see e.g.: Юшманов, Н. В.: Определитель Языков. Москва/Ленинград 1941,
    > .
    > (A proposal regarding this subject is expected for 2011.)
    > Thus, it shares with the Cyrillic soft sign its form and partly the
    > geographical area of its use, but in no case its meaning. Similar can
    > be said e.g. for P/p (U+0050/U+0070, Latin letter P) and Р/р
    > (U+0420/U+0440, Cyrillic letter ER).
    > According to the pre-preliminary minutes of UTC #125 (L2/10-415),
    > the UTC has not accepted the Latin Ь/ь.
    > It is an established practice for the European alphabetic scripts to
    > encode a new letter only if it has a different shape (in at least one
    > of the capital and small forms) regarding to all already encoded
    > letter of the same script. The Y/y is well known to denote completely
    > different pronunciations, used as consonant as well as vocal, even within
    > the same language. Thus, if somebody unearths a Latin letter E/e in some
    > obscure minority language which has no E-like vocal, to denote a M-like
    > sound and in fact to be collated after the M in the local alphabet, this
    > will probably not lead to a new encoding.
    > But, Latin and Cyrillic are different scripts (the question in the "Re"
    > of this mail is rhetorical, of course).
    > Admittedly, there also is a precedence for using Cyrillic letters in
    > Latin text: the use of U+0417/U+0437 and U+0427/U+0447 for tone
    > letters in Zhuang. However, the orthography using them was
    > short-lived, being superseded by another Latin orthography which uses
    > genuine Latin letters as tone marks (J/j and X/x, in this case).
    > On the other hand, Jaꞑalif and the other Latin alphabets which use Ь/ь
    > did not lose the Ь/ь by an improvement of the orthography, but were
    > completely deprecated by an ukase of Stalin. Thus, they continue to be
    > "the" Latin alphabets of the respective languages.
    > Whether formally requesting a revival or not, they are regarded as valid
    > by the members of the cultural group (even if only to access their cultural
    > inheritance).
    > Especially, it cannot be excluded that persons want to create Latin domain
    > names or e-mail addresses without being accused for script mixing.
    > Taking this into account, not mentioning the technical problems
    > regarding collation etc. and the typographical issues when it comes to
    > subtle differences between Latin and Cyrillic in high quality
    > typography, it is really hard to understand why the UTC refuses to encode
    > the Latin Ь/ь.
    > A quick glance at the Юшманов table mentioned above proves that there
    > is absolutely no request to "duplicate the whole Cyrillic alphabet in
    > Latin", as someone may have feared.
    > - Karl Pentzlin

    Szelp, André Szabolcs
    +43 (650) 79 22 400

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