When you say we may need a more relative layout strategy using polar
coordinates, that reminds me of the days just before computers when
we had powerful calculators. I programmed a utility on my
calculator for traversing, a surveying and civil engineering method
of getting from point to point over land. It uses bearings and
distances, which is basically a polar method, using the last point
of a leg as the first point of of the next leg. The output of the
program was the X,Y coordinates of each point.
Months ago I wrote to the list an idea about using shapes derived
from traversing. What I mean by that is that if you plot traverse
paths for each sign in a large enough set of signs in a database, a
set of paths, traverse shapes, may be determined. These paths
could become an alphabet of shapes, so that if you were to define a
signwriting string utilizing these shapes, you would be fetching a
predetermined path and applying the symbols of the sign to that
path. It would function similarly to how the Kanji alphabet is
applied to Characters in Japanese language to guide how the
Characters should be pronounced.
Like your idea of face symbols as diacritics of the head circle,
perhaps we can define placement similarly to what is already used in
word processing: A system similar to sub-scripts and
super-scripts. In this method, imagine horizontal lines through a
sign, each representing first the baseline then a series of
super-script lines above it and a series of sub-script lines below
it. You'd also need to define "pre-script" and "post-script" as
locations of placement for symbols before and after the first
symbol. This is close to a Cartesian system but it's simplified to a
predetermined set of locations that would build upon existing
methods (and terminology) of word processing. This could tend to
cause signs to be more iconized and simplified, which is a natural
progression of any written language. Eventually, just how a box in
Japanese is recognized for the word "sun," which was originally
written (in Chinese) as a circle, simplified and iconized signs
would come to be recognized with their associated concepts, rather
than as a "picture" of how the sign is made.
Obviously, these two ideas can be combined so that you could have
the shape alphabet defining placement of symbols ("characters" or
"text") on the script locations. Restricting to predefined script
locations could allow a smaller set of shapes, which could make for
a manageable alphabet.
Obviously, it's all theoretical, and I'm just hoping my perspective
and ideas can help somehow
On 5/11/2011 8:58 AM, Stuart Thiessen wrote:
[log in to unmask]"
type="cite">I think we will need to move to a more relative layout
strategy. As I mention in the thesis, there is some natural
organization of the symbols based on the layout of the body. There
is also some natural relationships between symbols such that
certain types of symbols only relate to other types of symbols.
So, those relationships can also help us in finding ways to
organize the symbol relationships in how the layout is encoded.
I think that there would be no specific need to mark the location
of the first symbol in a sign box. It could be understood to be
placed in the center of the sign box. Then everything else is
positioned either relative to the previous symbol or relative to
the body. There is more detail in the last two chapters that
describe some of my preliminary conclusions. At the least, I think
we should use polar coordinates rather than cartesian
I wrote a computer program to help me do some of the
analysis. Due to timing constraints, I didn't tell the computer,
"If they have the same location or if the rectangles
representing the two symbols overlap, then calculate distances
between symbols in a different way." My program just made the
assumption that no "outside pixels" of the symbols overlapped or
were superimposed upon each other. For a preliminary analysis,
this covers most of the symbols, but I knew a more detailed
analysis would need to cover superimposed or overlapping
symbols. It's just a matter of recognizing the situation and
planning different calculations.
Marking the superimposed symbols as -1 would certainly work.
Or one could assume that no positioning information implies it
is superimposed. In other writing systems, it is my
understanding that ligatures (like æ) are actually handled as
separate symbols in Unicode. I don't know if that would work for
SignWriting. For example, for head circles, one option could be
to have one head circle symbol + a series of face diacritics.
The renderer could then superimpose the face diacritics onto a
head circle symbol. Then if it runs out of room, it could add
additional head circles and add the remaining face diacritics to
those head circles. But that is not the approach that we are
currently using. Our current approach of superimposing the
various head circles also works, but that approach requires us
to think about opacity in the definition of our symbols which is
not usually used in most writing systems (to my knowledge).
At this point, we have some time to explore some different
approaches. Hopefully, we will find one that will be
well-accepted by the Unicode Consortium.
On Mon, May 9, 2011 at 1:16 PM, Bill
Reese <[log in to unmask]>
Great! I'm glad
they're working together on it. I hope great things come
out of the collaboration.
I know I brought this up before but I'm wondering, Stuart,
if a concept of relative coordinate systems was discussed
in your thesis? I did a quick scan so I'm not sure if it
was. What I mean by "relative" is a coordinate system
that's related to a previous symbol in a sign according to
that sign's signspelling sequence.
The coordinate for the first symbol would be in absolute
coordinates according to the signbox, then the second
symbol would relate to the first symbol according to a
coordinate system using a point of the first symbol as the
Doing it that way may allow establishing matrices of
symbol pairing in a sign. I would imagine this to be
similar to "kerning" and possibly define distances
according to the pairs rotation of not only themselves but
to each other. Similar to what you were saying about
establishing minimum distances.
About the overlap of symbols that you mention. I was
wondering if it couldn't also be solved by a matrix of
symbol pairing so that a particular matrix value would
indicate overlap - say, a value of -1. On the other
hand, do you think it would be possible to create totally
different symbols that are overlaps of two symbols? I ask
this as that's what's done in other languages when there's
an overlap. For instance, "æ" which looks like "a" and
"e" overlapped but is it's own symbol. I would hazard a
guess that separate symbols are only possible when there's
only a few.
On 5/9/2011 1:06 PM, Valerie Sutton wrote:
May 9, 2011
Hello Bill -
Just want you to know that we have a group of
Unicode-knowledgeable people working together on
our SignWriting proposals that will be presented
to the Unicode-related meetings over a period of
years, and Steve and Stuart are both in the group,
along with others as well - so we are all working
together...The proposals have been separated into
proposing the encoding of the symbols, or
characters, first, (of the International
SignWriting Alphabet 2010) and then once the
symbols have been encoded, we will present a
second proposal related to layout and symbol
placement issues - so that second area is where
different theories will be discussed until we can
come up with a final decision for a second
proposal - so we are taking this one step at at a
An exciting time for all of us - smile -
On May 9, 2011, at 8:56 AM, Bill Reese
Wow, that was a lot of work! I do have one
question. How would the most recent work in
Unicode and, more particularly, what Steve
Slevinski has written to the list affect the
portion where you talk about what may be
needed for successful Unicode acceptance?
From what it appears, it's well on it's way
to acceptance with what Steve and Michael
Everson have done.
On 5/8/2011 1:02 AM, Stuart Thiessen wrote:
Hello, all! I know
it's been a long time, no see. I wanted to
let you know that I have completed my MA
thesis on SignWriting. For those of you
interested in reading it, you can download
a PDF from the University website. Just so
you know, the PDF itself is about 22MB.
If you have any questions about it,
just let me know.