Dead and Compose keys (was: Re: Romanized Singhala got great reception in Sri Lanka)

Marc Durdin marc at
Mon Mar 17 15:36:42 CDT 2014

In the modern PC world, the physical keyboard generates scan codes, and these are not tied to what is printed on the key cap.  Dead keys and modifiers are implemented in software.  But key repeat is implemented in hardware.

-----Original Message-----
From: Unicode [mailto:unicode-bounces at] On Behalf Of Doug Ewell
Sent: Tuesday, 18 March 2014 1:04 AM
To: unicode at
Subject: Re: Dead and Compose keys (was: Re: Romanized Singhala got great reception in Sri Lanka)

Michael Everson <everson at evertype dot com> wrote:

>>> The idea here was that characters not on an ordinary QWERTY keyboard 
>>> could be entered _using_an_ordinary_QWERTY_keyboard._ Are there any 
>>> dead keys on an _ordinary_ (i.e. not one using an
>>> international(ized) driver) QWERTY keyboard?
>> Not on the standard vanilla U.S. keyboard. It has to be provided by 
>> the OS, via a driver, just as Compose key support has to be provided 
>> by the OS.
> Please distinguish between "keyboard" which is a piece of hardware and 
> "keyboard layout" which is a software input method.

Sorry for the shorthand. Everything I am talking about is software. I don't think there is such a thing as a physical dead key on a computer keyboard. The Compose key on *nix systems may be a physical key, but it doesn't have any special ability to compose characters unless given that ability by software.

"An ordinary QWERTY keyboard," as Jean-François put it, can generate any character, Latin or Sinhala or whatever, so long as the hardware has the right software behind it.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, USA | @DougEwell ­ 

Unicode mailing list
Unicode at

More information about the Unicode mailing list