Unicode organization is still anti-Serbian and anti-Macedonian

Gerrit Ansmann gansmann at uni-bonn.de
Sat Feb 15 14:15:51 CST 2014

On Fri, 14 Feb 2014 11:37:19 +0100, Крушевљанин <Perka at muchomail.com> wrote:

> There is still problem with letters бгдпт in italic, and б in regular mode.
> OpenType support is still very weak (Firefox, LibreOffice on Linux, Adobe's software and that's it, practically). It's also disappointing that Microsoft is still incapable to implement and force this support on system level.
> I want Unicode organization to change their politics and pay attention to small countries like Serbia and Macedonia. We have real-world problems. Thank you.

Just to avoid that I am arguing from a wrong premise: From what I gathered in a quick research, the problem is that the upright letter б and the italic letters б, г, д, п and т have a different shape in Serbian and Macedonian Cyrillic than in other flavours of Cyrillic.

First of all, the lack of support of such features by font creators and the support of font standards by a certain software company (who ironically happens to have created that standard) are hardly Unicode’s fault. It’s like complaining to your government that your favorite merchant still won’t sell bananas, though bananas were legalised twenty years ago.

But most importantly: Encoding these characters won’t do your goal any good for many reasons:
• Even if Unicode did include these characters today, it would take a long time for creators of fonts and other software to catch up – just consider how slow support of OpenType (or other intelligent font standards) is growing, despite the fact that it concerns a lot of languages and not just two.
• You cannot control every old text to be converted. However, for many such text you can control with which font or font technologies they are rendered. The support of working solutions for the latter is likely to grow even slower if your request were granted.
• People will be confused as to which characters they should use.
• In the current situation, if a font does support Cyrillic but not the Serbian and Macedonian specialties, there is a decent if not identical fallback in many cases. If the new characters were used, however, fonts that support Cyrillic but not the new characters (which especially includes every font that exists today) would not even render the upright versions of the new Serbian/Macedonian г, д, п and т correctly, even though they do contain these glyphs.
• If you consider this only a temporary makeshift solution to the problem, it works against other temporary solutions (see below).

Actually, the only advantage I see in encoding these letters separately is that it makes type designers aware of these specialties of Serbian and Macedonian – but neither is this the purpose of Unicode nor is it the best way to do so, and moreover does it not compensate the aforementioned disadvantages.

Some suggestions, how to better invest your ressources and energy on this issue:
• Make type designers aware of this.
• Enforce support of OpenType (or other intelligent font standards) or work on it yourself. (In general, it would be good if people stopped working on makeshift solutions for problems specific to their language or complaining about their lack of support and started working on the support of global standards that will not only solve their problem but benefit many other languages too.)
• Improve open-source fonts by adding the special glyphs yourself.
• As a temporary solution: Request and advertise versions of important fonts that default to the Serbian/Macedonian versions of said characters instead of the others. Or for open-source fonts: Make those versions yourself. (See also Otto Stolz’s answer)

> In Unicode, Latin scripts are always favored, which is simply not fair to the rest of the world. They have space to put glyphs for dominoes, a lot of dead languages etc. but they don't have space for real-world issues.

It’s somewhat amazing how you complain about Unicode’s focus on Latin script and its encoding of things that are not Latin in one line.

> Also, there are Serbian/Macedonian cyrillic vowels with accents (total: 7 types × 6 possible letters = 42 combinations) where majority of them don't exist precomposed, and is impossible to enter them. A lot of nowadays' fonts (even commercial) still have issues with accents.

At least for the 6 accents and 5 vowels I found, using combining diacritical marks should work very well even without OpenType, given that the font supports these characters (and you can bet that a font which does not even support this, would not support your requested precomposed glyphs).

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