Re: Some Private Use Area code points for ligatures.

From: William Overington (
Date: Mon May 27 2002 - 06:01:49 EDT

>>This list, the code points being entirely the choice of the present
>>is published by the present author.
>I take this to mean: "I am publishing this list and the choices for
>the code points are mine."

Well, that is an almost correct interpretation of the meaning, almost, but
not quite.

As you are an eminent linguist, whose work I admire, particularly delighting
in your clear love of precision, shown in various documents, such as the
discussion about the necessity to include the yogh character in Unicode, and
from whose documents about linguistics I have learned a great deal, perhaps
you might allow me to explain why the sentence is written in the passive
voice and my reasons for regarding your interpretation of the meaning of my
sentence as not congruently correct. Please know that I would not go into
such detail if, say, someone whose language was not English had asked me as
to whether he or she had correctly understood the meaning of what I have
written. Hopefully, as a linguist, you will be interested to know of my
reasoning for writing the sentence in the form that I wrote it. You are
welcome to respond if you consider that I have got it wrong. The thought
might be to "take it to email" yet, perhaps there will be readers of this
posting in the Unicode list who might be interested in your reply, as the
use of English is a subject which often fascinates a wide audience.

I have also added into this post, at the end, two other items about printing
which will hopefully interest both you and other readers.

The first thing that it is important to understand is that, feeling that the
document is important to me and that it will hopefully be found of use in
scholarly work by others, I decided to write the document in a formal style.
The style used, that is, impersonal except where essential not to be
impersonal and written in the passive voice, is the style that people
studying science are taught to use when writing formal reports of
experimental work.

So, the style of this particular sentence is not at all unusual in the
scenario of a formal report in science. Rather on the lines of the way
that, after scientific meetings, a chairperson of a meeting might ask
listeners to signify their "appreciation of the speaker in the usual manner"
rather than saying "please applaud" or "let's give a round of applause".

As the document concerns printing, the use of the word author on its own
could be ambiguous, perhaps it means the author of the document about the
code points or perhaps it means the author of the text, such as a poem,
which is to be set. The use of the term 'the present author' thus
unambiguously means the author of the document about the code points.

As regards your interpreted sentence, the following matters arise.

The verb does not convey the full meaning of the original sentence. "I am
publishing" is a continuous tense: it could mean that I am in the process of
organizing the publishing and that a hard copy publication of some sort is
hopefully to appear soon rather than making a specific statement that the
fact that the list which exists in the very document that you are reading is
the publication itself. "This list .... is published" conveys exactly,
precisely, the meaning that I intended. If I had to write a sentence in the
form of your suggestion, I feel that I would need to write something of the
form "I am here publishing", yet that also does not quite catch the meaning
that "the list is published" conveying both the meaning of the one-off
action of publishing and the continuing fact that the list has been

The word 'for' would need to be replaced with the word 'of'.

This is because I chose some code points from amongst the total set of code
points which were available for me to use. Had I, in a different scenario,
for some other item of research, chosen to define meanings for each of some
code points in a given range, then the word 'for' would have been

I notice that you use the word choices whereas I used the word choice. This
is interesting. In my sentence I made a choice (singular) of the code
points. If I had, in a different scenario, chosen meanings for a given set
of code points, then I would have made choices (plural) of those meanings.
Yet in your sentence, if the word 'of' is substituted for the word 'for',
should the sentence refer to one choice or a number of choices?

Also, I feel that the sentence also needs "entirely mine" rather than just
"mine" or perhaps "were entirely mine" or "was entirely mine". My original
sentence catches the fact that I am accepting total responsibility for the
choice of the particular code points, yet does not seek to make an
intellectual property rights claim over the choice. I feel that your
suggested sentence is ambiguous about this and could lead to confusion
amongst people who might like to make use of the list in relation to their
work. I feel that my original is much clearer in this regard.

An interesting discussion.

Thank you for your interest in reading my document. I wonder if perhaps
you, or indeed anyone else reading this present document, might have any
knowledge of what was the situation in olden days when long s characters
were widely in use in relation to languages where there is today an accent
on a letter s. Did accented long s characters exist, and did accented long
s ligatures exist please, or were the accents disregarded or were the
accents only introduced into the languages after the use of long s
characters ceased for general printing purposes?

An interesting factor in the development of the English alphabet may
perhaps have been that when printing was introduced into England in 1476 by
William Caxton, it was as an imported invention, William Caxton having
learned of the invention while living on the European mainland and, I seem
to remember from reading it somewhere, having gone to Cologne to learn how
to print. Thus, maybe English lost some of its characters because the
founts manufactured by fount makers in mainland Europe did not contain the
required sorts. I wonder if any research has been done on looking at the
characters in William Caxton's printing to work out from where he got his
type by comparing the faces used with the faces used in books printed by
printers on the European mainland and if anyone knows of any links to any
items about that on the internet please.

Today, when I see a pub with large letters spelling out the name starting
with Ye I wonder whether we should claim our linguistic rights and have a
giant thorn character instead of the Y. I can just imagine the situation
being that the lettering for the pub would need to be imported from Iceland
or something like that, all of the letters for the name because importing
just one thorn character would not match the rest of the letters! Still,
it's a thought for when the lettering is being replaced.

Just for fun, can anyone think of a reasonable, historically correct,
display sign that might be produced using a yogh character, which could
perhaps be made and used as a display sign on a shop, such as a crafts shop,
or on a restaurant? I find that such a fun exercise often leads to learning
something interesting.

William Overington

27 May 2002

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