Sources for characters in ISO 6438

From: Don Osborn (
Date: Mon May 12 2003 - 17:26:02 EDT

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    Does anyone have any leads to sources of information on how the ISO 6438
    "African coded character set for bibliographic information interchange" was
    developed? A 1979 DIN document (without explanatory text), "Coded Character
    Set for African Languages" (,*
    which evidently is a forerunner to ISO 6438 (a 1998 version of which is at* differs in several ways
    from usage illustrated in the "African Reference Alphabet"
    ( published after the
    1978 Niamey "meeting of experts on the transcription & harmonization of
    African languages," which raises the question.

    Understanding that both were attempts in the late 1970s to summarize
    character needs that were and to some degree still are evolving, and that
    each had different strengths, I am still curious to know more about how the
    DIN document was researched. Partly I am wondering if this is an early
    example where linguists (primary participants in the UNESCO-sponsored
    conferences like the one in Niamey) and computer experts (involved in the
    setting of the ISO standards) in or working for Africa weren't communicating
    much. Mainly though, I'm interested to know more about who used what
    sources to put together what became the ISO 6438 standard for African
    characters, that was in turn eventually incorporated into ISO 10646 /
    Unicode. It may be worthwhile to post this information (if it is not
    already) as part of broader information sharing re African language
    orthographies and Unicode.

    Thanks in advance for any info...

    Don Osborn

    * Thanks to Eric Rasmussen for these references

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