SignWriting List
December 12, 2011

Thank you Steve, for your detailed and clearly explained description of what is happening with Unicode today. I promised the Unicode group who is focusing on SignWriting that I would answer their questions today on their List, about how we construct movement arrows and new hand symbols, when using the ISWA 2010, so they can at least understand a little, that we have both pre-constructed symbols, such as the established hand symbols, movement arrows and facial expressions already built for us, and how we can build our own symbols at times, when we need to…with the ISWA 2010.

I still to this moment do not understand why our first proposal was temporarily accepted by those working with us from the Unicode group, and now all of a sudden it is back to the drawing board, but after reading your message below, Steve, I can see that you do understand it. Thank you for your clear explanation. It is a fascinating topic. And I feel hopeful...

In a phone conversation about a month ago, I learned from a Unicode person that the Korean script Hangul went through quite a time with Unicode. If I understood the story correctly, there are now at least four ways to use Korean in Unicode and that it was a nightmare for the Unicode committee members, because it was long ago that Hangul was placed into Unicode and they tried different theories and some theories had flaws. So I suspect the committee members changed their minds about what they accept into Unicode and what they don't, over the years…

The hardest part, I think, about Unicode, is that it is run by committees, and not all committee members can possibly know all the scripts they are placing into Unicode and so when they vote, they are coming from a different perspective, rather than from the perspective of knowing the script…they are seeing it from an international computer perspective and trying to make all the scripts of the world accessible in the technology of the current times...

So Charles, to answer your question…although there are ways to enter Chinese with Unicode, it is not a perfect solution nor is it ever finished - it seems that Unicode is an ongoing living breathing entity run by committees…and the people who use the scripts have to inform the committee members about the details of their writing systems ;-)

Val ;-)


On Dec 12, 2011, at 5:57 AM, Steve Slevinski wrote:

Hi Charles,

On 12/12/11 6:42 AM, Charles Butler wrote:
[log in to unmask]" type="cite">
How is Chinese calligraphy encoded. 

It's a broad topic.  Unicode is compatible with some, but not all of Chinese calligraphy.  I think proposals continue to trickle into the Unicode pipeline.



On Dec 12, 2011, at 4:42 AM, Charles Butler wrote:

I am curious, and this is only looking at the words you use. How is Chinese calligraphy encoded. There are, I believe, between 16 and 32 keystrokes to create a given character if it were to be decomposed. Could not something like that be applied to SignWriting? We have a larger character set, but composition would seem to be made of smaller parts into a larger whole. 

Charles Butler
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Clear writing moves business forward.

--- On Mon, 12/12/11, Steve Slevinski <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

From: Steve Slevinski <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: SignWriting Unicode update and a path forward
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Monday, December 12, 2011, 7:35 AM

Hi Val,

1) dynamic composition - building something from smaller parts.
2) visual decomposition - breaking something down into smaller visual parts.
3) syntactic decomposition - construction rules for identification.

I've read a lot of the Unicode documents: official documents as primary, technical notes as secondary, and critics as third.  I've interacted with several types of Unicode people.  I believe I have a good understanding of what Unicode was in the past and what Unicode is now.

I know what Unicode says on paper, but I don't know the inner circle of the committee process and I don't know the existing font technology.

It is impossible to have a perfect solution for Unicode that satisfies every principle and ideal.  Any encoding process will begin with 1 major principle, and everything flows from that.

The Unicode experts, from day 1, started from a different founding principle: they understood visual decomposition.  I tried to explain my syntactic decomposition, but was told it would never make it through committee. 

For the past 2 years, I've had a series of compromises with the Unicode process. I'm only happy about the first compromise.  We encode the symbols before the script.  This compromise still seems to be holding.

The preliminary Proposal incorrectly explained the syntactic encoding design.  A committee member noticed the disparity and asked for clarification.  A problematic compromise was suggested and quickly adopted to continue the committee process.  Just last month, this compromise failed and there is no proposal design.

For SignWriting in Unicode, the idea of visual decomposition is in the initial stages.  They have not met reality.  They do not have a font and they have not processed text.  I do not know how quickly their encoding will mature.  I'm assuming they'll have several intermediate phases, rather than just throw something together to submit in February.

Visual decomposition may integrate well with existing font technologies, but visual decomposition is a subset of the higher Unicode principle of dynamic composition.