Font-related problem for linguists

Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol at MSCC.HUJI.AC.IL
Sat Mar 3 00:34:00 UTC 2012

Don Killan is right; after all there are so many duplicates in Unicode that are fully identical, as in Latin and Cyrillic, so what the hell is the reason to borrow signs from one series to anothe and from one script to another?

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.
> Best,
> Don
> On 03/02/2012 04:08 PM, Michael Cysouw wrote:
>> On 2 Mar 2012, at 13:26, Peter Kahrel wrote:
>>> Martin and I seem to be agreed that the best (if not the only) way
>>> to solve this is to add a character to a Unicode range. Here's why.
>>> Suppose you have some roman text in, say, English, in which a word
>>> or a phrase is used from language B, using the open a. In the roman
>>> text, all the a's look the same. But when you italicise the text,
>>> you want the English a's to look like italic script a's, and the
>>> a's in the bits from language B like slanted a's.
>> Please note that there is no way to refer to italics in the UNICODE
>> description of a character. UNICODE does specify capitalization, but
>> not italicization!
>> 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). Try searching
>> for one or the other, and you will find only one of them. The basic
>> rule of UNICODE: it's not about the looks, it's about the encoding.
>> Here there is no problem in encoding, there is a problem in the
>> looks. That's not UNICODE's business.
>> The only way to solve this problem in the Unicode standard would be
>> to apply for a separate italic symbol, e.g.
>> This is also not feasible, because it assumes that the italic version
>> really "means" something different. It doesn't in our case.
>> Really: the only solution is to explain to TYPOGRAPHERS that the
>> italic versions of "a" and "ɑ" should look different. They have to
>> come up with a nice way to have both of them look good, and still
>> look different. Sometimes typographers appear to have been lazy, and
>> simply re-use a glyph. That is mostly not a problem, but sometimes it
>> is.
>> But: changing UNICODE is not an option here.
>> best michael

Prof. Gideon Goldenberg
48 Ben-Maimon Avenue
IL-92261 Jerusalem
Telephone: +972-2-5665135
Fax: +972-2-5634891           

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