Unicode inconsistencies and mistakes

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Fri Mar 2 23:04:00 UTC 2012

On 2 Mar 2012, at 4:36, Don Killian wrote:

Why is changing Unicode not an option?

There are two distinct symbols in the IPA, a (open unrounded front vowel) and ɑ (open unrounded back vowel). When IPA was introduced into Unicode, a character position was created for ɑ (U+0251), but not for the front vowel a.  Instead, Unicode reused the normal latin small letter a, and as an unfortunate coincidence, italic latin a resembles roman ɑ.

There are two potential solutions.

One is for typographers to create fonts where italic versions of a and ɑ look different.  This then means that italicized English and other Metatext languages will also do the same, if you don't change the font for those, but I don't think this should be too upsetting for people in general, and I do see this as a potential solution, particularly in the short term.

However, I do see a solution from Unicode as well.  It is not to apply for a separate italic symbol, which I agree is not sensible.

Instead, we should have a character to represent the open unrounded front vowel a, so that typographers can specify its italic shape to not resemble ɑ, and small latin a can still resemble ɑ in italics if needed.  Despite the long list of already existing "a"s, I don't see them as sufficient, and it shouldn't be a problem to add a character to the IPA extensions.  Unicode has done something similar with U+0067 g and U+0261 ɡ (and numerous other examples), which also resemble each other, so it wouldn't be the first time.

In fact this should have been done which IPA was added to Unicode in the first place, instead of taking a shortcut with the normal latin small letter a.

Your argument could very well be used here identically:

> From the perspective of UNICODE, the "a" and "ɑ" are simply two
> different characters. If you put them in italics, they are still two
> different characters (even if they might look similar)

From the perspective of a linguist, a (small latin a) and a (front open unrounded vowel) are simply two different characters, even if they might look similar. They also deserve two different points.



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