Re: Mathematical Greek Alphanumeric Symbols

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Sat May 14 2005 - 16:58:39 CDT

  • Next message: Hans Aberg: "Re: Mathematical Greek Alphanumeric Symbols"

    May be the distinction is only needed when using these mathematical symbols
    within normal text which would be rendered (with rich-text enhancements) in
    serif or sans-serif style. In that case, there's a visual distinction
    between what is a quoted mathematic formula and the rest of the text, if
    this could cause confusion.

    So effectively this is a rendering problem, as the same document could use
    the opposite styles as well.

    I really doubt too, that there will be distinctions between serif and serif
    symbols in the same set of mathematical formulas: see for example how you
    can make the distinction between a serif and sans-serif 'a' or 'e' or 't'
    with SO MANY fonts.

    A mathematic formula is already complex enough so that it should not use
    confusive notations, which may lead to many interpretation errors/bugs and
    false demonstrations.

    I won't say the same thing about the light/bold and roman/italic
    distinctions which are really more convincing visually.

    So if one wants to make the distinction between "sh" the hyperbolic sinus
    function name and "sh" the product of the two variables s, and h
    (independantly of the fact that there may be an "invisible product operator"
    or some space between them, if needed to make the distinction with named
    variables with more than one letter in their name), its highly probably that
    the variables will be in italic or bold style, and the "sin" operator will
    be in normal style, and in both cases they can be either in serif or
    sans-serif font style, as a matter of rendering preferences.

    Same thing for the "dt" differential notation: the differentiator d will
    probably by upright (or bold), and the t variable will be generally italic,
    and there will remain the distinction with another italic constant d in the

    The three usual roman/bold/italic styles (is bold italic really needed too?)
    used in mathematics is often clear enough to make all the necessary
    distinctions, including when a formula is embedded within linguistic text.

    In addition, most of the mathematics works is performed manually (expect
    within final reports, and books or publications), with a simple pen on a
    basic sheet of paper or with a marker on a whiteboard, and a humane hand
    can't draw these distinctions easily and legibly, even if the hand can often
    be much better than too limited computer programs (like text editors, email
    agents, and even "WYSIWYG" wordprocessors that still depend on fonts, and
    display/print resolutions.)

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Murray Sargent" <>
    To: "Hans Aberg" <>
    Cc: "Unicode List" <>
    Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2005 10:51 PM
    Subject: RE: Mathematical Greek Alphanumeric Symbols

    > The STIX committee (see for
    > references) chose the sets of mathematical alphanumerics. I agree with
    > you that sans-serif characters in general are rarely used in
    > mathematics, at least in the mathematics of physics. My guess is that
    > the STIX committee didn't find enough mathematical usage for sans-serif
    > upright and italic Greek characters to justify including them. One can
    > always resort back to higher-level character formatting to render such
    > characters, but then the sans-serif distinction is lost on export to
    > plain text. Such loss would imply a change in semantics. But so far,
    > anyhow, we haven't seen a need for mathematical sans-serif and
    > sans-serif italic Greek sets.

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