Fraser’s Lisu writing system

Research notes toward a Unicode encoding

by Richard Cook

STEDT, SEI, Unicode




Introduction

This document examines questions relating to the encoding of Fraser’s Lisu Script, and specifically addresses the idea of its disunification with Latin.

The main focus here is on case folding, and the relation to encoded characters. Fraser letters are only nominally CAPITAL, since Fraser letters do not use distinctive case.

The discussion that follows first defines some terms, presents the elements of the Fraser repertory, and then analyzes it in detail in relation to items in the encoded Unicode 5.0 character set. Conclusions are presented in the Conclusion.

See David Bradley’s Southern Lisu Dictionary (2005) for an introduction to this script as used in the writing of the southern dialect of Lisu.


DEFINITIONS

To begin, define the terms “TURNED” and “INVERTED” by example:

A TURNED L is:

__ 
  |
  |
  |

 

An INVERTED L is:

 __
|
|
|

 

TURNED forms are rotated 180 degrees; INVERTED forms are reflected vertically on a mirror plane at the bottom of the em-square.

There may be a difference between a TURNED and an INVERTED letter, if the result happens not to be equivalent, as it would be for something with horizontal symmetry, such as “V”: rotation of “V” by 180 degrees yields the same form as vertical reflection.

There is no contrastive pair in Unicode 5.0, e.g. the INVERTED L example is not encoded. The terms “INVERTED” and “TURNED” are in complementary distribution in Unicode 5.0: TURNED is used of letters (non-small-cap and non-glottal-stop), but INVERTED is used of signs, marks, diacritics.

Fraser letters are “TURNED” versions of a subset of the encoded “LATIN CAPITAL LETTER” characters, but Fraser letters are only nominally upper-case, since Fraser Script does not exhibit case folding (i.e., it does not use “LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED” forms at all).


THE FRASER REPERTORY

TURNED forms of the following 15 uppercase Latin letters are used in Fraser Script:

  A B C D E F G J K L P R T U V

Each of these contrasts with an encoded non-turned form in use in Fraser orthography.

Other Latin letters which do not contrast (with themselves or with another letter-form in the repertory) when TURNED are used in Fraser orthography, but have no TURNED counterpart. There are 10 of these:

  H I M N O S W X Y Z

Compare the above when TURNED with the respective item in this list (TURNED Y is like TURNED V):

  H I W N O S M X V Z

Only “Q” is completely unused in Fraser Script.

A table of the phonological values of Fraser signs when used to write Southern Lisu is given in Bradley’s Southern Lisu Dictionary (2005:xxvii).

This includes a list of 6 tone marks comprised of either single or composite punctuation marks:

  1   2   3   4   5   6
  .   ,  ..  .,   :   ;

These apparently do not contrast with punctuation signs in Fraser Lisu texts.

Of the 15 TURNED letter forms used in Fraser, only a TURNED V is encoded (TURNED M is not a Fraser letter):

  019C LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED M
  0245 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED V

Disregarding a

  LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED E

look-alike in the math block

  2203 THERE EXISTS

and for that matter

  2200 FOR ALL

which is like a

  TURNED A

there are no other encoded (Unicode 5.0) characters closely similar in appearance.


ANALYSIS

Below is a distinctive-feature analysis of the set of 52 CAPITAL and SMALL LETTER TURNED forms, showing which are “Fraser”, “encoded” (Unicode 5.0), and “distinct”. The following symbolic conventions are used in the analysis.

The names given below presume that Fraser letters are CAPITAL (despite the fact that Fraser Script does not distinguish case), for the purpose of analysis.

LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED A (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED B (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED C (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED D (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED E (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED F (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED G (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED H (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED I (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED J (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED K (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED L (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED M (-Fraser +encoded ?distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED N (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED O (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED P (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED Q (-Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED R (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED S (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED T (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED U (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED V (+Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED W (-Fraser -encoded ?distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED X (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED Y (-Fraser -encoded ?distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED Z (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)

LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED A   (~Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED B   (~Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED C   (~Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED D   (~Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED E   (~Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED F   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED G   (~Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED H   (-Fraser +encoded ?distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED I   (-Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED J   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED K   (~Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED L   (~Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED M   (-Fraser +encoded ?distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED N   (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED O   (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED P   (~Fraser -encoded -distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED R   (~Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED T   (~Fraser +encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED U   (~Fraser -encoded ?distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED V   (~Fraser +encoded ?distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED W   (-Fraser +encoded ?distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED Y   (-Fraser +encoded ?distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED Z   (-Fraser -encoded -distinct)

 

Separating out those both “-encoded” and “+distinct” gives the following 15+2=17:

LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED A (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED B (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED C (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED D (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED E (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED F (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED G (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED J (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED K (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED L (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED P (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED Q (-Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED R (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED T (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED U (+Fraser -encoded +distinct)

LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED F   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED J   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)

The feature “distinct” is highly glyph-dependent, and as noted, there is also a correlation between “+distinct” and “+Fraser”, since Fraser letters are by definition distinct when TURNED (the Fraser set excludes TURNED “-distinct”).

This analysis simply adds 3 characters to the set of 14 Fraser letters, one CAPITAL and two SMALL.

LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED Q (-Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED F   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)
LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED J   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)

Of the above three, only one

LATIN SMALL LETTER TURNED F   (~Fraser -encoded +distinct)

is attested among the as yet unencoded signs in Pullum & Ladusaw (1996:59), but cp. U+027E (1996:98) for something like a SMALL LETTER TURNED J.

It therefore seems more to the point, and more prudent, rather than disunifying Fraser completely or in part, to propose only the 14 missing Fraser letters for future encoding, named as follows:

TURNED FRASER LETTER A
TURNED FRASER LETTER B
TURNED FRASER LETTER C
TURNED FRASER LETTER D
TURNED FRASER LETTER E
TURNED FRASER LETTER F
TURNED FRASER LETTER G
TURNED FRASER LETTER J
TURNED FRASER LETTER K
TURNED FRASER LETTER L
TURNED FRASER LETTER P
TURNED FRASER LETTER R
TURNED FRASER LETTER T
TURNED FRASER LETTER U

To complete the set of LETTER characters needed for Fraser orthography, we would simply include the un-turned Latin counterparts of each of the above, and the following “+Fraser +encoded” character

LATIN CAPITAL LETTER TURNED V (+Fraser +encoded +distinct)

rather than disunify to create apparent duplicate

TURNED FRASER LETTER V

Likewise, Fraser tone marks would not be encoded separately, since they are simply the four existing punctuation characters re-purposed. It does not seem that there are line-break or other property considerations that would make this problematic.

The Fraser repertory is therefore as follows:

Encode
TURNED =>  A B C D E F G J K L P R T U

Encoded
TURNED =>                              V
LATIN  =>  A B C D E F G J K L P R T U V
LATIN  =>  H I M N O S W X Y Z
PUNCT  =>  ; : , .

CONCLUSIONS

It is therefore proposed that only the following 14 Fraser letters be proposed for future encoding, named as follows:

TURNED FRASER LETTER A
TURNED FRASER LETTER B
TURNED FRASER LETTER C
TURNED FRASER LETTER D
TURNED FRASER LETTER E
TURNED FRASER LETTER F
TURNED FRASER LETTER G
TURNED FRASER LETTER J
TURNED FRASER LETTER K
TURNED FRASER LETTER L
TURNED FRASER LETTER P
TURNED FRASER LETTER R
TURNED FRASER LETTER T
TURNED FRASER LETTER U

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