Re: Vedic Characters & Unicode (fwd)

From: James E. Agenbroad (
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 12:54:35 EDT

More on same topic.

          Jim Agenbroad ( )
     The above are purely personal opinions, not necessarily the official
views of any government or any agency of any.
Phone: 202 707-9612; Fax: 202 707-0955; US mail: I.T.S. Dev.Gp.4, Library
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 16:04:04 +0100
From: Christopher John Fynn <cfynn@DIRCON.CO.UK>
Subject: Re: Vedic Characters & Unicode


Thanks for your reply.

Unfortunately, the Vedic accent characters have *not* been addressed in Unicode
3.0 or in ISO/IEC 10646: 2000.

The fact is that until someone makes a formal proposal to encode these
characters they simply won't get encoded in the Unicode and ISO 10646
standards - which would be, as you point out, a sad state of affairs. So far no
one has made such a proposal. Unfortunately India, which pays a huge sum of
money to belong to ISO and has more national scripts encoded in these standards
than any other country, never bothers to send a delegate or send proposals to
ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 meetings. It is consequently left to a few individual
members or experts, concerned about being able to fully represent traditional
texts electronically in standards based systems, to generate and promote
proposals for characters such as these.

At this point I think even a proposal which does not have the unanimous support
of scholars would be useful - simply to get things moving. The process of
getting characters encoded takes at least two years (more if there is much
controversy) and, if they want to participate in the discussion, there is plenty
of scope for experts to suggest improvements, point out mistakes and otherwise
comment on such a proposal once it has been tabled. Only once WG2 and Unicode
are convinced that there is a reasonable consensus will the characters actually
be approved for encoding in these standards.

Until such a formal proposal has actually been made these characters will not
even be considered for encoding. If any subscribers to this list think that in
the future they may need to represent these characters in XML, HTML, XHTML or
any other standards based text format then they should be thinking about this
*now*. It takes a long time to get characters encoded in the ISO 10646 / Unicode
standards and even longer to see support for them actually implemented in useful
software applications and fonts.
What is necessary to make such a proposal is a list of the characters, glyph
examples, names of the characters, references to published works where these
characters appear and the names & suppliers of any fonts which include glyphs
for these characters. It is also necessary to try and determine before hand
which of these Vedic accents are unique characters and which (if any) are simply
"glyph variants".

Although annex G of ISCII could be used as the basis of such a proposal, it
contains insufficient information to create a complete proposal. If anyone wants
to send me the additional information required I would be happy to write a draft
proposal and make it available to members of this list for comment before
submitting it for consideration by WG2 and Unicode.

I'm not too worried about a battle amongst or with respected Indologists over
these characters - there have been similar battles over much of the current
content of ISO 10646. (So far all the Indologists I've encountered are fairly
mild characters. At the last WG2 meeting in Beijing I was seated between the
North Korean and South Korean delegations - and some people have actually
received death threats from various factions regarding the encoding of

- Chris


John Robert Gardner <jrgardn@EMORY.EDU> wrote:

> It is my understand that the vedic accent set, and quite a large one at
> that, is part of std. subsequent to ISCII-1988 (My copy is not here in the
> office), and this set is part of Annex G of the set. It's complete, but
> not implemented anywhere I know of. I remember Mohan Tambe at (I think)
> GIST had a role in this and was working on it . . . then there was a weird
> rant about the Taj Mahal and ISCII a while back . . . in response to an
> effort not unlike yours. A word of advice in advance: tread lightly.
> This topic generates more inconclusive babble than one would think. It
> was IS 13194:1991 (which is out of synch with Unicode 1.0, though unicode
> is a superset of ISCII:1991). Alas, Annex G is expressly excepted from
> ISCII-1991.

> Have a look at ISCII, at lest, before you proceed . . . Unicode 3 may have
> begun to address this. Unicode 3.0 (see sect 9.1, pp. 211f of the
> consortium's volume) encodes ISCII in same relative posiitons, A0-F4/16.
> This is an uphill battle to say the least. I've even heard respected
> indologists . . . even leaders in teh e-text field . . . argue _against_
> keeping such nuances as the yet-to-be-resolved idiom of ZB accent.

> A sad state, if I might eulogize a moment, when the precision of
> transmission which is described as a "tape recording from ancient times"
> due to the precision of pronunciation is nonetheless in danger of being
> lost in encoding. It would be tantamount to the British atrocities of
> building railroad beds with bricks from Mohenjo Daro, or US atrocities of
> pumping deadly gas into the air at Bopal.

> jr

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