Undeciphered Scripts (was Re: ASCII and Unicode lifespan)

From: Andrew West (andrewcwest@gmail.com)
Date: Tue May 24 2005 - 05:29:12 CDT

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    On 23/05/05, Kenneth Whistler wrote:
    > There is no prima facie case for standardizing characters for
    > undeciphered scripts (even if they can be demonstrated to actually
    > be *scripts*). There is no obvious *need* to generate and
    > transmit plain text involving undeciphered scripts. The main
    > potential users -- a usually small number of decipherers -- can
    > use other means to meet their needs.

    I think that there should be no hard and fast rule about the validity
    of encoding undeciphered scripts. As Michael has pointed out many
    times on this list, script-encoding decisions are based on the merit
    of individual proposals, not on immutable principles.

    As far as undeciphered scripts go, both Khitan small script and Khitan
    large script are roadmapped for encoding, and rightly so, because
    there is a large corpus of material in both of these scripts, and
    although the material is 90% undeciphered, there is a desire to be
    able to work with Khitan texts in electronic form ... not just for the
    small band of dedicated decipherers, but, for example, for
    archaeologists publishing the text of a newly discovered monumental
    inscription (which is happening at a rate of about one new memorial
    stone inscription in small or large Khitan script every couple of
    years), and for museums cataloguing their collections. People may not
    need to write emails in Khitan scripts, but that does not mean that
    there is not a real need to encode these scripts.

    Similarly, a substantial proportion of oracle bone forms of Chinese
    ideographs remain undeciphered, but they will nevertheless be encoded
    because of the need to publish and interchange material in "Old Hanzi"

    On the other hand, for undeciphered scripts that are only evidenced
    from a single inscription such as the Phaistos disk "script", I would
    err on the side of caution, because a second inscription could
    completely overthrow our understanding of the original inscription,
    and potentially invalidate the original encoding model.


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