Title: Response to comments on the question of encoding Meroitic in the UCS (N2098)

Source: Michael Everson, Everson Gunn Teoranta (IE)
Status: Expert contribution
Date: 1999-10-02
Action: For information

Pawel Wolf of the Grabung Musawwarat at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin responded to my exploratory proposal to encode Meroitic in the UCS in SC2/WG2 N2098 ( sc2/wg2/docs/n2098.pdf).


In this paper I will try to address the points in Dr Wolf's contribution as if the paragraphs were numbered.

1. Latin transliteration is generally satisfactory for Meroitic scholars.

That's fine. We hope that the 23 transliteration characters and word divider mentioned can be represented in the UCS, but if they cannot we need more input.

2A. Palaeographic characteristics of texts are not considered.

Palaeographic concerns could be handled by glyph variants in the fonts; this would still be advantageous to scholars wanting to use such codes for vocabulary lists which could be sorted and searched.

Academics prepare documents for publication and teaching which may not be strictly palaeographical in nature. These may include grammars, dictionaries, teaching materials, examination papers, etc.

2B. Transliterated texts are written from left to right.

That is perfectly normal for Latin transliteration. The question remaining to be answered is, if scholars were to use actual Meroitic characters in text, would they prefer to represent them right-to-left or right-to-left? Egyptologists usually prefer left-to-right presentation. Etruscologists have informed us explicitly that they prefer left-to-right presentation for Etruscan script, even though many Etruscan texts are right-to-left. (I think this means they even reverse photographs from time to time.)

2C. Some Latin transliteration characters are not generally available.

Please be more specific.

3. Scholars prefer photographs to fonts.

See 2A above.

4. Encoding Meroitic would only be useful for popular science

One must recognize that there are indeed other users of the Universal Character Set other than academic users. Nevertheless, we do have a strong commitment to supporting the best scholarship (as we did for Ogham and Runic, already encoded in the UCS). We are very interested to learn if there are Latin transliteration characters which cannot be represented with the UCS.

The UCS has to take into consideration many different user requirements. Runic and Ogham have both "serious" academic users and "popular" amateur users. Whether these latter can be served without compromising the academics is something we have to take into account. There is, however, no urgency to encode any immature proposal without the blessing of the academics.

5. If a standard were created it should "use the same internal coding like the one used for the transliteration fonts".

Does this mean one-to-one mapping or font shifting? If the latter, it would mean that Meroitic characters were to be considered glyph variants of Latin characters, which would not be normal for UCS treatment of scripts.

6 & 7. A number of the characters do not have the correct shape.

I would very much like to receive clear photocopies of the relevant parts of the three articles in question (Priese 1973, Hochfield & Riefstahl 1978, Hainsworth & Leclant 1978). These are not available to me in Dublin. I can make a font for these available.

8. Four additional characters should be added to the repertoire.

More information on these would be welcome.

9. Cross references to Egyptian hieroglyphs in the character names is undesirable and they should be removed.

Easily done. The parentheticals will be removed.

Michael Everson,, 15 Port Chaeimhghein Íochtarach, Baile Átha Cliath, Éire, 1999-10-04