Re: Mayan numerals

From: Jameson Quinn <>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 13:47:49 -0600

2012/8/20 Michael Everson <>

> On 20 Aug 2012, at 19:28, Asmus Freytag wrote:
> > I seem to recall that there's a definite interest in Mayan numbers
> that's separate from the script as a whole. In the former group you'll find
> mathematicians, physicists and astronomers who don't necessarily need the
> full script, as Mayan scholars or archeologists would. In fact, the Mayan
> numbers probably have an altogether wider audience.
> >
> > So why would you hold them back?
> Those numbers are part of the script as a whole. I would not want to
> encode them without having done all the contextual analysis of how they
> behave within the script -- not just abstractly outside of it.

This is a good point. In the pre-columbian corpus of Mayan, the numbers are
very frequently embedded in larger block glyphs; the obvious and standout
example is with dates.

So it's important to have a plan. But I don't think that's a good reason to
hold the numbers back until we have a complete proposal with all the ı's
undotted and ł's crossed.

So, in order to look towards such a plan: can you elaborate any on how
encoding the standalone horizontal-barred numerals, with the seashell-like
0, could cause problems down the line? I mean, if we do develop some
sophisticated system for encoding how characters combine and flow, why
wouldn't those existing number glyphs fit into that system, or at least
peacefully coexist with it?

Because the truth is that there is a much broader audience for the numbers
than for the calendar glyphs, and a much broader audience for the calendar
glyphs than for the rest of it. As I said, it is not uncommon for
mayan-oriented books here in Guatemala to have Mayan page numbers; and many
math teachers around the world use a unit on Mayan mathematics as a way to
get an outside perspective on the base-10 system.

> In the meantime, mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers can use the
> PUA if they need to implement and exchange data in a UCS context. I would
> even consider that appropriate for the CSUR, in the short term. The
> Phaistos Disc, Shavian, and Deseret characters were there for a while
> before their encoding.

I could easily be wrong here, but I don't think any of those examples
compares in scope to the use of Mayan numerals.

> But there is no reason to rush forward encoding a tiny subset of an
> important and complex script on some assumption that those characters don't
> interact with other characters in the script in a meaningful way. That is
> asking for trouble in encoding.

I'm not assuming that. That's why I'm discussing the issue here. I'd love
it if you could share your expertise.

> More haste, less speed.

I like Cervantes's version better: "Slowly, Sancho; I'm in a hurry." That
is, don't let haste trip you up, but don't forget about the urgency either.

Received on Mon Aug 20 2012 - 14:50:47 CDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Aug 20 2012 - 14:50:48 CDT