Re: Definition of character

From: Jukka K. Korpela <>
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2011 23:23:32 +0300

13.07.2011 21:15, Ken Whistler wrote:

> On 7/13/2011 12:45 AM, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
>> For one thing, defining “Unicode character” as a technical term and
>> using it consistently makes it possible to formulate clearly its
>> relation to “character” in the common meaning, thereby helping people
>> to understand and use Unicode better.
> Well, possibly.

The confusion around the word “character” is one of key problems when
trying to make people understand Unicode concepts, principles, and
techniques—and even when trying to understand statements in the Unicode
standard. So I would hope for a more positive reaction than “possibly”
followed by an anecdotal comparison:

> But this discussion sounds a bit like challenging a biologist
> to define an exact technical term for "life", distinguished from "life"
> in the common
> meaning, and then to refrain from using "life" in the common meaning in
> a textbook about biology.

I don’t see that biologists use the word “life” in any confusing manner
comparable to the Unicode confusion around “character.” “Life” isn’t
really a central concept in biology, and its use in biology hardly
differs much from everyday use. Defining “life” might be a problem to
philosophers, politicians, etc., but not that much in biology.

You might try “species” instead. But to get a more reasonable
comparison, consider “force” and “energy” in physics. They are surely
very different from the everyday meanings. When an ad says that some
drink is “low energy,” it hardly makes much sense physically without
clarification. But in physics, people need not worry about such issues.
Physics does not deal much with things where the varying everyday
meanings of “force” and “energy” could be confused with the physical

But in the Unicode Standard, in the discussion around it, and in
applying it, uses of “character” in everyday sense are common and essential.

Received on Wed Jul 13 2011 - 15:27:54 CDT

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