Latin glottal stop in ID in NWT, Canada

Marcel Schneider charupdate at
Fri Oct 23 01:59:21 CDT 2015

On Wed, 14 Oct 2015 16:04:20 +0000, Denis Jacquerye  wrote:

> Here is what N.W.T.'s language commissioner, Shannon Gullberg is quoted saying:
> “By not allowing for names that contain Dene fonts, diacritical marks and symbols, she says the Vital Statistics Act is violating the spirit and intent of the Official Languages Act.”
> [...]
> Where Dene languages expert Brent Kaulback is quoted saying:
> “Dene fonts are now unicode fonts. They can be loaded onto any computer, and if they're typed into any computer, any other computer can read those fonts as well.”

Iʼm very glad to read the above statements. Only when looking closer, especially to other parts of the cited articles, but also elsewhere on the web in other countries, Iʼm amazed and stranged to see that there is still an important lack of knowledge even among learned people about what is Unicode and what is todayʼs nature of our daily worktools. Some people stay talking about fonts, where Unicode talks about characters. Some people view glottal stops as symbols and as not being a part of Latin script, while they ship with every computer on Windows (and though, any other OS) through font support since almost a decade or so.

Reading forth, I stumbled upon yet other oddities. Some people are calling “Roman alphabet” what seemingly should be Latin script, while roman is today a font style only. The following are but examples, which are here because theyʼre inside the threadʼs topic:

>>> The department said it has to adhere to the Vital Statistics Act, which recognizes only names that use letters from the Roman alphabet. Having symbols like the glottal stop on birth certificates would also interfere with obtaining passports and other documents issued by the federal government, according to an email from a department spokesperson.

>>> The Northwest Territories government has refused to register the girl under that name, saying that all names must be spelled using the standard Roman alphabet. 
>>> The territory’s Vital Statistics Department told her she couldn’t register her baby under that name. It said Roman characters are legally required for names because they have to appear on official federal documents.
>>> Healy said the department is working with Ottawa to see if it’s possible to allow such characters on official documents. The issue raises both technical and economic issues, he said.
>>> “In the event that the fonts cannot be accepted by the federal government, the department will have to continue to produce a birth certificate that only includes the Roman alphabet,” he said.

>>> the Northwest Territories government was unable to register a name that is not written entirely in the Roman alphabet.
>>> In an email [...], a government representative explained that's because the glottal stop isn't part of the Roman alphabet.

I stop quoting here not to lengthen the refrain, but rather point out that among the mentioned reasons for glottal stop refusal—missing resources and unwillingness to buy new engraving and fixed-type printing machines, perhaps ignorance too—there seem to be two main reasons:

A | Missing ethical guidelines awareness. The following quotations corroborate what I already outlined off list (Iʼm highlighting with uppercase):

>>> For Arok Wolvengrey, head of the indigenous languages department at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina, these stories aren’t surprising, and point to the ways Aboriginal languages are under threat. “The decision not to allow the proper representation of their children’s name IS A SERIOUS INSULT,” he says. “This is ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE DUAL MESSAGES GOVERNMENTS OFTEN SEND. They say they respect our official languages, but that’s definitely not how it plays out in practice. For many people who no longer speak these languages, this is the only way they can preserve their ancestry.”

>>> In Nunavut, which recognizes Inuktitut, English and French, Inuit can register traditional names, INCLUDING THE GLOTTAL STOP, FOR GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS. But it looks as though the Northwest Territories won’t be MAKING CONCESSIONS ANY TIME SOON. “Practically, the current vital statistics database and printer do not accommodate glottal stops . . . and significant resources would be needed to upgrade them,” a spokesperson for the department said in an email this week.

B | Missing keyboard layouts. Most people (including myself two years back) simply donʼt know how to update their keyboard layout in a manner that allows to input these characters in a reasonable way. This however isnʼt mentioned by anybody, obviously because it questions the ability to control a more or less trivial everyday worktool.

Germany standardized five years ago a couple of new backwards compatible keyboard layouts designed for the proper input of all occurring names in Latin script, and ALL THREE GLOTTAL STOPS HAVE PLACES ASSIGNED ON KEYS (at least on the complete one of them). Finland has a standard keyboard with support of Sámi and many other languages. Great Britain has an extended keyboard layout including local language characters. In France there are at least two associations proposing keyboard layouts, and the government is standardizing an official layout or two for multilingual support.

In CANADA, QUÉBEC has had the merit of creating a MULTILINGUAL keyboard that has been successfully standardized A QUARTER OF A CENTURY ago, and this is nowadays THREATENED BY THE IT INDUSTRY, so that it even cannot complete to the initially planned end stage allowing full support of all Latin characters for official languages. See this other thread on the Unicode Public List:

Effectiveness of locale support (was: Re: Custom source samples)

Iʼm perhaps the last person on the Unicode List to be in a position to point to other peopleʼs ignorance, as I am very ignorant myself and was even more when I started e-mailing to Unicode and to the Unicode List. Knowing thus by experience what ignorance is, how it works, and what it does, Iʼm in turn perhaps the only person that is capable to send this e-mail. However I came near not to send it to the List, as Iʼd written it in a way that wasnʼt really fit for public audience. Now I believe that my wording is scaled enough not to hurt anybody who isnʼt to.

I suggest that *all* Canadian local and territorial authorities cooperate with Québec and the Federal government to fully support the completion and implementation of the CANADIAN MULTILINGUAL STANDARD keyboard layout.

All the best,

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