Re: Transliterating ancient scripts

From: Andrew West (
Date: Tue May 24 2005 - 06:17:42 CDT

  • Next message: Marion Gunn: "Phaistos (was: ASCII and Unicode lifespan)"

    On 23/05/05, Dean Snyder <> wrote:
    > Nick Nicholas wrote at 1:52 PM on Sunday, May 22, 2005:
    > >... there is a distinct
    > >lack of enthusiasm by a lot of scholars to normalising ancient script
    > >glyph repertoires
    > The operative word is "is". This will not be true in the future.

    I think that what Nick is saying is that some scholars oppose the
    character encoding of ancient scripts as they perceive the process of
    encoding as normalizing away significant glyph differences, and thus
    encoding may be perceived to be lossy.

    I do not subscribe to this point of view, and believe that ancient
    scripts can be successfully encoded, and that there is a real
    enthusiasm for encoding by a lot of scholars. And as Dean says, once
    ancient scripts are encoded then more and more scholars will use the
    original script instead of or in addition to transliteration.

    For ancient scripts with an open set of characters, for example "Old
    Hanzi" ideographs, I would advocate the separate encoding of
    *significant* glyph variants, as such variants can be significant for
    dating and other purposes, and in lexicographical works there is a
    need to have separate entries (in the main text or in the index) for
    such variants. To a certain extent the Unicode character-glyph model
    needs to be responsive to the needs of the user community, which for
    some ancient scripts does genuinely need to differentiate significant
    glyph variants.

    This is not necessarily the case for all ancient scripts. For Phags-pa
    I argued strongly that as the character repertoire is closed and
    well-defined, there is no need to separately encode simple glyph
    variants. The counter argument put by one scholar was that as Phags-pa
    is an historical script it has an almost sacred status, and so
    scholars must be able to represent all the idiosyncrasies of the
    glyphs of a text in the character encoding. For me, if you need to be
    able to represent every minute detail of the glyph forms of a text,
    then you would do better to use a facsimile reproduction, as it does
    not matter how many glyph variants are encoded, character encoding
    will still never achieve this goal.


    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue May 24 2005 - 06:18:52 CDT