RE: Are Latin and Cyrillic essentially the same script?

From: Peter Constable (
Date: Fri Nov 19 2010 - 11:09:53 CST

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    From: Asmus Freytag []

    > IPA has other characteristics in both its usage and its encoding that you
    > need to consider to make the comparison valid.

    > First, IPA requires specialized fonts because it relies on glyphic distinctions
    > that fonts not designed for IPA use will not guarantee.

    And historic texts aren’t as likely or unlikely to require specialized fonts?

    > It's also a notational system that requires specific training in its use,

    And working with historic texts doesn’t require specific training?

    > and it is caseless - in distinction to ordinary Latin script.

    I could understand how that might be relevant if we were discussing a character borrowed from another script but with different casing behaviour in the original script. (E.g., the character is caseless in the original script, or it is case but only the lowercase was borrowed and a novel uppercase character was created in the receptor script. This was a valid consideration in the encoding of Lisu, for instance.) I don’t really see how that impacts the discussion in this particular case.

    > While several orthographies have been based on IPA, my understanding is
    > that some of them saw the encoding of additional characters to make them
    > work as orthographies.

    Again, I don’t see how that impacts this particular case.

    > Finally, IPA, like other phonetic notations, uses distinctions between letter
    > forms on the character level that would almost always be relegated to styling
    > in ordinary text.

    And again, I don’t see how this impacts the particular case under discussion.

    > Because of these special aspects of IPA, I would class it in its own category
    > of writing systems which makes it less useful as a precedent against which to
    > evaluate general Latin-based orthographies.

    Perhaps in general it cannot serve as a precedent for all things. But as noted, I think several of the things you noted have no particular bearing in this case. For the specific issue of borrowing a character from another script in a historic orthography, I think it’s a perfectly valid precedent. It boils down to this: just as there aren’t technical or usability reasons that make it problematic to represent IPA text using two Greek characters in an otherwise-Latin system, so also there are no technical or usability reasons I’m aware of why it is problematic to represent this historic Janalif orthography using two Cyrillic characters.

    Btw, I suspect that calling these Latin characters is completely revisionist: if we could ask anyone that taught or used this orthography in 1930 about these characters, I suspect they would say that they are Cyrillic characters.

    > I think the question can and should be asked, what is adequate for a historic
    > orthography.

    Clearly you’re trying to have a discussion about general principles, not about the specific characters. At the moment, I’m prepared to discuss general principles to the extent that they impinge on the particular case at hand. Other’s may wish to engage on a broader discussion of general principles (though, hopefully under a different subject).

    > Against this backdrop, it would help if WG2 (and UTC) could point to agreed
    > upon criteria that spell out what circumstances should favor, and what
    > circumstances should disfavor, formal encoding of borrowed characters, in the
    > LGC script family or in the general case.

    > That's the main point I'm trying to make here. I think it is not enough to somehow
    > arrive at a decision for one orthography, but it is necessary for the encoding
    > committees to grab hold of the reasoning behind that decision and work out how
    > to apply consistent reasoning like that in future cases.

    These are not unreasonable requests. I don’t see any inconsistency in practice as it relates to this particular case, however.

    > So let me ask these questions:
    > A. What are the encoding principles that follow from the disposition of the Janalif
    > proposal?

    I think one principle is that we do not always have to maintain a principle of orthographic script purity. In particular, in the case of historic orthographies no longer in active use that borrowed characters from another script in the LGC family, if there are no technical or usability reasons that make it problematic to represent those text elements using existing characters from the source script, then it is not necessary to encode equivalents in the receptor script so that we can say that the historic orthography is a pure-Latin / pure-Greek / pure-Cyrillic orthography (which, in terms of social history rather than character encoding, would likely be a revisionist perspective).

    > B. What precedents are these based on resp. what precedents are consciously
    > established by this decision?

    I'm not sure I fully understand the question so won't venture a comment.


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