RE: Devanagari question

From: Chris Pratley (
Date: Tue Nov 14 2000 - 18:33:43 EST

In an alphabetic language like English, almost all of our creative frivolity
with the language can be achieved within the realm of the alphabet simply by
creating new spellings and words (artists known once again as Prince aside).
In Chinese, although there is still the dimension of combining characters in
interesting ways, there remains a larger space to play inside the characters
themselves, since the parts of the characters clearly have meaning, unlike
with English.

When I talked to the Hong Kong SAR Gov't about this problem of new
characters for example, they mentioned that one of the more interesting
sources of new characters was the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Horse owners
considered it quite reasonable to name their horses with newly created
characters, for example applying the radical for Gold to a pre-existing
character in a combination that has never before existed. The newspapers
then had to print the race results, meaning that they had to create new
characters in print.

Naturally the way this is currently solved is to use the EUDC area of Big5
(or PUA in Unicode), but it is not unreasonable to see how these characters
will work their way into uses more people would consider "legitimate". For
example, if the horses are bred, then their names need to be stored in that
pedigree database. Similarly if they are government licensed, the names live
on in those records. Eventually they need to be sorted, so now we run into
trouble with a PUA-only implementation.

The HKSAR Gov't was trying to discourage this "frivolous" creation of new
characters, but we should realize that creation of new characters may be
more acceptable in different cultures especially if the set of characters is
not viewed as fixed. Many Chinese speakers I have met claim that they do not
see the set of Chinese characters as bounded, even if one were to go through
all ancient texts. It is the job of the UTC to make a call on newly proposed
characters - hopefully their number will be few.

Chris Pratley

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-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas Chan []
Sent: November 14, 2000 2:12 PM
To: Unicode List
Subject: RE: Devanagari question

On Tue, 14 Nov 2000, Rick McGowan wrote:

> Mike Ayers wrote:
> > The last I knew,
> > computer-savvy Taiwan and Hong Kong were continuing to invent new
> > characters. In the end, the onus is on the computer to support the
> Yes, the computer should support the user, but... The invention of new
characters to serve multitudes is OK, and international standards will
probably continue to support that. But I don't think it's reasonable or
appropriate to keep inventing new characters willy-nilly for individuals (as
reported), and then expect them to be added to an international standard.
That's silly. The onus is not on international standards to support the
whimsical production of novel, rarely-used, or nonce characters of the type
reported to be generated.
> In any case, I still have never seen actual documentary evidence that
would prove to me that in fact Taiwan and Hong Kong *ARE* creating new
characters at the drop of a hat. People just keep saying that to scare
everyone. Sounds like an urban myth to me.

I think there is some confusion between "new characters" in the sense that
they were never available in any standard, but which are taken from
pre-existing print sources, and now people would like to properly add
them; versus "new characters" that were made up "yesterday" for frivolous

Thomas Chan

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