Re: Mayan numerals

From: Jameson Quinn <>
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2012 11:33:13 -0600

> > So, why would we not want to encode Mayan numerals now?
> Because we aren't ready to do it without doing it in the context of the
> whole script.

Why not? Can you give some indication of what you're afraid of, some
scenario of how we could possibly later regret having included the basic
digits now?

I understand you may be reluctant to speculate, but I really don't see how
it could be a problem. If you do give a hypothetical, we'll all understand
that it's just an example, and avoid focusing on the specifics.

If you want to write a proposal to assign them a place in the CSUR, I will
> help you do that, and help with fonts or whatever you need. Then people can
> privately exchange data using the PUA in the short term.

I can guarantee you that school children will not use the CSUR to privately
exchange data with their teachers. I would also wager that a publisher like
Chol Samaj, who already obviously has the ability to use the basic glyphs
for page numbers, would see no value in a temporary unicode code-point. I
think that if they're interested in unicode at all, it's for the permanence
/ archival value.

> > Typically, numbers are rectangular, so they'd tend to fit into the
> blocks above in positions 1, 3, or 9, respectively.
> And atypically?

My point is that there are many possibilities, so yes, thank you for
emphasizing that.

> > (In modern spoken Mayan languages, numbers go along with numeric
> classifiers, similar to east asian languages. However, I don't think that
> those classifiers were written out phonetically, as any reader would know
> intuitively which one would fit in context.)
> It would be better to know than to guess.

I'm not an expert, so I am speaking carefully here. But I'm not just
guessing either.

Again, the larger point is that there is significant variation possible. If
the numeral classifiers were somehow integrated into the number glyphs in
some cases, that would merely be another kind of variation. It would not
invalidate the existence of the basic number glyphs.

> > Furthermore, I think there are special rules for "face glyphs", which
> can combine incomplete versions of certain other glyphs at the forehead(?),
> cheek, and chin(?) positions. Also, each of the digits 0-10 has a "face
> form" unrelated to the standard digit, and for 11-19 hybrid forms are used
> (for instance 10/3 for 13)
> This is additional complexity.

Right, and something which should properly be handled along with the larger
task of encoding the writing system as a whole. But again, it's separate
from the basic number glyphs.

> > I don't speak any CJK language, but I've briefly skimmed over the
> unicode rules for those languages, especially Korean. As far as I can see,
> the facilities that have been built there will help with full Mayan
> hieroglyphs, but it seems likely that further tricks will be needed.
> I have in the past looked more deeply at the encoding of Mayan
> hieroglyphs, and it will not be trivial.

Again, we seem to be agreeing here.

To me, the more difficult it is to encode the writing system as a whole,
the longer it will take; and so the more benefit we could get from encoding
the numerals ahead of time.

> > Given the complexity of the block-combining possibilities, I don't think
> it's possible that each glyph element will have multiple code points for
> each of its possible positions within a block.
> I doubt one would consider doing it that way.

Again, we agree. My point is that whatever the future combining system will
be, it will include the atomic glyphs as single code points, at least in
some cases. Thus it is not premature to assign code points to the glyphs
with the most modern uses (by several score times): the numbers.

(This is a bit of a distraction, but I think that essentially the block
combining will be handled by some unicode code-points that essentially
function equivalently to <div horiz>, <div vert>, and </div> tags within
blocks. I also have ideas of how to handle the two-column flow and the
occasional deviations therefrom, and issues of rotating glyphs. But I'm not
a professional Mayanist and so it's not really my place to make these

> ... in real petroglyphs, 1 and 2 (for instance) usually look more like
> ∪•∪ and •∪• than like the simplified • and •• that I'd suggest for the
> basic glyphs...
> >

> This is beginning to look like there might be a case for a set of
> characters for Mayan digits in modern use, and to just separate them
> from the script.
> Also in light of what we learned about their use in education. That's
> not "scholarly" use, which is the usual bench mark for how to encode
> ancient scripts.

I'd have no problem with encoding them separately (where?) if I understood
what concrete problems could result from putting them in the block already
set aside for Mayan.
Received on Thu Aug 23 2012 - 12:37:09 CDT

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