Greek Extended Characters

From: Patrick T. Rourke (
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 21:31:20 EDT

> Internet Explorer 5.5, running under Windows 95 --
> a non-Unicode system except for the UniScribe support
> provided by IE -- can display not only Latin Y with grave
> and with acute but also Greek Upsilon with varia and
> with oxia.

Yes, but . . . they don't look very good as combining characters, at least
with Arial Unicode MS (and of course there are problems which the MS people
on this list know about and I'll bet are working to fix which prevent the
use of combining characters in Palatino Linotype altogether). Somewhere I
have a whole table of what looks good and bad in each operating system (just
for polytonic Greek), with several combinations of fonts and applications,
and from what I remember, using certain fonts and certain applications, OS
X, XFree86 4 + *nix, and various Windows versions can all *display*
combining characters, with varying degrees of sophistication. But they
don't look terribly good except in certain fonts and in certain apps. "Not
terribly good" should be read as "often effectively unreadable" - if an
acute accent *overlaps* a smooth aspirate (they should not quite touch, and
the accent should be to the right of the aspirate) for instance, it is
sometimes hard to distinguish that combination from the combination of a
grave accent with a rough aspirate (that are wrongly overlapping).
Obviously not the fault of the standard, and I'm sure David understands
that, too (DP, feel free to take me to task on anything you disagree with),
but the fault of implementers, many of whom simply don't realize that there
are substantial communities of users in the West who need good Unicode
support as much as users in the East do.

> However, it might be worthwhile to submit the gist of this
> letter to the UTC with a request to document that the 'missing'
> combinations are expected to occur, and to alert font vendors
> intending to support classical Greek to make sure that their fonts
> supply these glyphs.

If no one objects, I'll forward this discussion en mass to another list for
classicists (at the Stoa Consortium) that might help with this, and has only
a few overlaps with the subscription to this list. All the combinations
that might be expected to occur would be hard to document, because there are
epigraphic, paleolographical, and papyrus texts with very strange
combinations. But they aren't all obscure: one "missing" combination, at
least, is in Homer (I don't remember if the original poster mentioned that
one or not).

Please object before 5:15 pm EDST 1 May 2002 if you don't want your comments


Patrick Rourke

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