Re: Context-specific markup brackets (from Re: Why 17 planes?)

From: Doug Ewell <>
Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2012 10:36:33 -0700

William_J_G Overington wrote:

> Would it be a good idea to define a new block of characters within
> Unicode/10646 such that characters would be encoded in pairs, possibly
> with visible glyphs as context-specific markup brackets?
> [...]
> I am thinking that this would mean that where some applications use a
> combination of Unicode/10646 characters, (sometimes including specific
> circumstances characters such as Hieroglyphics characters) and markup,
> that the fact that some of the stream of characters are used in a
> markup context and some are not would be detectable from within the
> character stream, in both forward and backward parsing, instead of
> being designated in a possibly non-interoperably-notifiable manner
> from outside of the character stream.

I do want to commend you for coming up with an idea to encode things
that would actually be characters in the sense that term is generally

I think in this case, the problem of identifying characters used in a
markup context, not with their normal plain-text meaning, is a
well-understood problem that has been successfully addressed by parsers
for half a century.

I also think the history of languages (programming, text markup, etc.)
that rely on obscure or difficult-to-type characters is not encouraging.
APL is a classic example. It's not that it would be hard to build a
specialized editor with macros to allow keyboard access to the special
characters, but that one could *only* use such an editor to write such
text, and not one's otherwise-preferred editor. We Unicode wonks tend to
forget that for many users, if it's not a visible key on the keyboard,
it may as well not exist.

I think a proposal to encode markup brackets would have to demonstrate a
real-world problem that isn't adequately solved with current solutions
(not just "it would be nice for some future use"). However, again, at
least these are characters, which is progress.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, Colorado, USA | @DougEwell ­ 
Received on Sat Dec 01 2012 - 11:43:59 CST

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