Re: named character sequences foor tally marks

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Tue, 6 Sep 2016 14:03:28 +0200

Isn't the proposal showing only significant cases for numbers 1-5 (the
others are repeating the glyphs with their separation made by their side

Digits 1-4 (using the first variant and an overstriking slash for 5) are
also highly confusable with existing vertical bars and Devanagari
punctuations, but their significant difference is their side bearings,
which may not be distinctable with monospaced fonts).

For the second variant (alternating horizontals and verticals) has the same
confusable glyphs for 1, but for 2 they may be confusable with some Hangul.

However, for a coherent presentation (to avoid mixing fonts with various
metrics, it still seems coherent to encode 1-5 in a single set (the
addition of 10-20 does not seem necessary, unless there are other variants
for talling marks)

Other Variants :

- 1. Many people extend the number of vertical bars and do not use any
slanted slash (5 is represented just as " ||||| "):

- 2. Another common variant draws successively each side of a square and
adds a diagonal for 5.

- 3. I've seen at least one variant of the first variant, using an
horizontal bar for 6 (two for 7, three for 8, four for 9) and representing
10 with two orthogonal slashes (and when counting by tens directly, using a
square or just an X cross, also similar to the Roman digit X).

Talling marks are basically used to count events or objects progressively,
as they come, by adding a single stroke to the counter without erasing
anything. these marks are not necessarily dranw with a pen but may be
engraved bur some cutting tool, they may also be holes through thin
surface. their presentation depends on the material used and whever they
must resist mechanically for extended periods of time (ink on paper is not
always usable, notably when exposed directly to water/humidity, or when
marks are on objects that are subject to frequent manipulations).

Their presentation will then widely vary, but for use in plain text
documents that will be printed on paper or displayed on screen (possibly
along with other text) it seems that the first variant (verical bars and
overstriking slash for 5) is the most representative.

I don't think this proposal is really justifying the addition of number

In fact, for digits 1-5 it also looks very similar to variants of the Roman
digits (where 4 may also be represented by " IIII " instead of " IV ").
Roman digits where initially simple talling marks (just like older Greek or
phoenician scripts and many scripts of the world) but then turned to reuse
the same Latin letters of the alphabet (with additional letters borrowed
for multiples of powers of ten) and derived later to use also lowercase
letters and ligated glyphs.

The proposal you cite suggests to reuse the same code for two very
different variants, but I wonder why. the first variant is the most common
and matches what is used in many scripts. The second variant is probably
very specific for use with Asian scripts. The variant with sides of a
square is probably better known (and used across cultures; howeer the order
for frawing these sides is not significant, even if they are geenrally
drawn by circularily connecting sides, which diagonal will be drawn is
usually not significant: right-handed people usually use a "/" slash,
left-handed people frequently use a "\" backslash, but people may also
alternate the slashes between the group for five and the second group for
ten, for easier visualization of the total).

Another common usage is to add a second horizontal stroke over two
successive groups of five talling marks, to create complete groups of 10.

If the surface is easily erasable or discardable, another talling line may
be used to count complete groups of tens (or some other significant groups
such as 12, depending on the context, notably in games), erasing/discarding
the first line for units as soon as it is complete.

There are also games using groups of 3 units, where talling marks are sides
of a triangle, or groups of 6 units where marks are sides of a square and
its two diagonals.

Finally there are also wellknown games where talling marks are drawing a
hanged man, usually with 10 strokes (including straight strokes for the
horizontal base, the vertical mast, the horizontal support at top, the
hanging chord, a circle for the head, and a single stroke for the
body+neck, the arms, and the legs; the exact layout may vary, I've seen
also games drawing a basic house, with a triangular roof, and a door).
However these talling schemes in games are not perceived as digits/numbers.

Notes about variant (1.) above :
   This variant using only vertical bars is wellknown in France when
opening and counting votes in all official elections and referenda (similar
methods may be used for other elections/polls in organizations, such as
professional elections, when there are large numbers of voters with secret
votes and no agreed electronic votes).
  Attempts to use electronic votes for official elections have always been
opposed (and they don't bring any advantage for the secret of votes or in
terms of cost and speed of operations).
  The position where to draw these vertical bars is preprinted on talling
sheets by a small dot or horizontal dash.
  This counting is made publicly, immediately after the closure of the
vote, by volunteeers (assessors) voting in that bureau, whose identity is
  An assermented public officier may also be present to control an assert
the regularity of the operations (when sealing the empty urn before opening
the vote, and when the seals are broken until votes are fully counted):
this opens in some municipalities where candidates are in strong
oppositions and the majority is likely to be contested), but most
frequently candidates have their own representant present in each bureau
(within the public which is still kept separate from the talling tables).
  Generally there are 3-4 tables by bureau for this operation (there may be
only one table if there are not enough volunteers present), plus the
president of the bureau (an elected member of the municipality and one or
two representant of the opposition, or some administrative personel of the
municipality; the police may also be present to control the public and
secure the operations. As long as there are not enough persons there to
start the count, the sealed transparent urns cannot be opened (they may be
brought by the police to another bureau that will open it publicly, but
before that, they must remain visible to anyone). The effective talling
process occurs after opening the votes and counting the individual
envelopes in groups of 100: these groups are put in sealed envelopeds that
will be opened separately on talling tables.
  On each talling table, there is two assessors counting parallelly on
separate sheets, another assessor opening the envelopes, and another one
announcing the vote orally and ordering them (all 4 assessors are
controling the regularity of the vote and signing the null votes or empty
envelopes); it may happen that a group of 100 has one additional envelope
or a missing one: this is signaled but does not cancel the group, the
talling sheet will return the effective number of valid and invalid votes.
  All valid, null/canceled and blank votes are counted with these talling
marks.Only the empty envelopes that contained the secret votes do not need
to be kept with the talling sheets (but envelopes containing
invalid/null/blank votes are signed by assessors and kept for later
control, if needed).
  At end of counting a group of 100 votes, the total number is also added
in a dedicated colum, using standard digits "0-9" and a new talling sheet
is used for the next group (each talling sheet is then signed by each one
of the 4 persons. It the two talling sheets do not have match totals at
this step (and because alls open envelopes are kept on the table), the full
group will be recounted on new sheets and assessors are signing the
cancellation of a talling sheet. If the public sees irregularities of
operations on a talling table, the group of 100 will be recounted on
another table (groups of 100 votes are never mixed on the same table).
  At end of operations, another sheet is used by the bureau to total all
votes for the bureau and results are immediately announced publicly in the
bureau and displayed ouside for several days. This totalling sheet just use
normal "0-9" digit, before sending all signed sheets of the bureau to the
central bureau of the municipality where they will be totaled and announced
poublicly and then sent to the prefecture (representing the national
authority), electronically immediately and by secure postal mail.
  Finally these totals are compared to the registry of participants (each
voter signs this registry before inserting their secret vote in the urn),
which is controlled separately publicly with their own totals, while votes
from the urns are being counted by assessors.
  The whole process lasts for about one hour (more or less depending on the
number of tables). These wellknown public operations in bureau are rarely
contested (and most people feel that it is more secure than any form of
electronic vote, which is also felts as being intrusive for the secret).
  Contestations generally come from what is happening outside the bureau
(such as illegal campaigns during the day of voting, or irregularities in
the registry of voters, or security problems for the access of voters to
the bureau), or opening votes before the official scheduled time (before
the public can be officially present) or keeping it open too late (when
there were no more voters arriving in the bureau in regular time and
waiting their turn to access the secret cabins, sign the registry and
insert their vote in the urn): there's a small tolerance for closing the
vote one or two minutes after, but at this time the public is generally
present (however at this time, results or estimations may be published and
could influence the vote of last minute voters and this could be signaled
as an irregularity, possibly invalidating all results of the bureau by a
court; if too many results are canceled by a court, changing the final
results significantly a new vote would then have to be organized later and
this has a significant cost for municipalities).
  So the vertical talling marks on sheets are just used temporarily (really
needed for a few minutes) but may still be controled later (along with with
all envelopes and vote sheets that are kept together in a large sealed
envelope containing the 100 votes, which is closed, signed by assessors and
the president of the bureau).
  As this talling method is wellknown, it is also used informally (notably
by children paying games). But talling marks using sides of a quare and a
diagonal is also common in popular games.
2016-09-06 1:53 GMT+02:00 eduardo marin <>:
> I love the proposal to add western tally marks because it only occuies two
> code points for a techically equivalent solution:
> L2/16-065 (Proposal to encode two Western-style tally marks)
> <>
> 1 L2/16-065 Title: Proposal to encode two Western-style tally marks
> Source: Ken Lunde (Adobe) & Daisuke MIURA Status: Individual contribution
> Action: For ...
> However this proposal isn't complete unless we can identify tally marks 2,
> 3 and 4 easily and the simplest way is to add named character sequences,
> where we just repeat tally mark one an n number of times.
Received on Tue Sep 06 2016 - 07:04:19 CDT

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