Re: 1 in 1000

From: Peter Constable (
Date: Mon Apr 24 2000 - 12:15:07 EDT

       I agree with Michael: these statements are fraught with
       problems, and have more potential to hinder the advancement of
       lesser used languages than they do to promote the adoption of

       The original wording is problematic in ways that Mark has
       pointed out. Even Mark's wording is problematic, however: there
       is still a significant portion of the world's population whose
       first language is either unwritten or for which writing has
       only recently been introduced. It is certainly premature to say
       that these languages are supported by Unicode (though they
       potentially could be, depending upon future orthography
       decisions -- *any* language in the world can be written with
       Latin script if the user community chooses to do so). Based on
       some info I've seen on these languages, I'd estimate that this
       may account for around 5% of the world's population. It may be,
       if we knew enough, that some of these should be counted as
       already supported by Unicode, but then this figure doesn't
       consider languages written with those scripts that are not yet
       covered by Unicode, or languages with writing systems that are
       only partially covered by Unicode.

       The upshot is that statements of the sort being put forth here
       are really not much more than speculative conjecture, that
       figures like 99.9% are most likely wrong, and that coming up
       with any really accurate figures is still problematic. On the
       other hand, if you want to pick a safe figure, like 90%, then I
       don't think there is a problem. (I wouldn't have qualms with
       slightly higher figures like 93% except that that is not
       rounded and so sounds more like it's based on some verifiable
       measure when it's not.)


       From: <> AT Internet on 04/24/2000
             07:48 AM

       To: Peter Constable/IntlAdmin/WCT, <> AT
       cc: <> AT Internet@Ccmail
       Subject: Re: 1 in 1000

       I raised something like this issue a few months ago. As I found
       out, it is very difficult to get good data, although all of the
       estimates were over 99.99%.

       The wording is always very tricky, and depending on the
       audience you want to rea ch you may want to qualify it more, or
       simplify it. Some items you might conside

       a. You use "speaks". Most languages, even if normally written
       in an indigenous s cript, also have a Latin transcription. You
       may want to rule that out. b. Many people speak more than one
       language. Probably safer to reverse the sense .
       c. Grammatical nit. The word "less" is for mass nouns (water)
        and "fewer" is for count nouns (beans). You don't say /fewer
        water/ nor /less beans/. Percentage m
       ight be easier.

       Here is an alternative:

       "Over 99.99...% of the world's population speak languages whose
       customary writte n forms are represented in Unicode."


       Elliotte Rusty Harold wrote:

> Is the following statement accurate?
> Probably less than one person in a thousand today speaks a
       language that > cannot be reasonably represented in Unicode.
> Can anyone be more accurate than that? If the number is
       higher than 1 in > a 1000, what scripts still need to be
       encoded to get the ratio below 1 > in a 1000? If it's already
       much less than 1 in a 1000, how low is it
> approximately? 1 in 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000?
> --
> | Elliotte Rusty Harold | |
       Writer/Programmer |
> | Java I/O (O'Reilly & Associates, 1999)
> |
> |
> | Read Cafe au Lait for Java News: |
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