Standaridized variation sequences for the Desert alphabet?

Martin J. Dürst duerst at
Mon Mar 27 03:29:21 CDT 2017

On 2017/03/24 23:37, Michael Everson wrote:
> On 24 Mar 2017, at 11:34, Martin J. Dürst <duerst at> wrote:
>> On 2017/03/23 22:48, Michael Everson wrote:
>>> Indeed I would say to John Jenkins and Ken Beesley that the richness of the history of the Deseret alphabet would be impoverished by treating the 1859 letters as identical to the 1855 letters.
>> Well, I might be completely wrong, but John Jenkins may be the person on this list closest to an actual user of Deseret (John, please correct me if I'm wrong one way or another).
> He is. He transcribes texts into Deseret. I’ve published three of them (Alice, Looking-Glass, and Snark).

Great to know. Given that, I'd assume that you'd take his input a bit 
more serious. Here's what he wrote:

My own take on this is "absolutely not." This is a font issue, pure and 
simple. There is no dispute as to the identity of the characters in 
question, just their appearance.

In any event, these two letters were never part of the "standard" 
Deseret Alphabet used in printed materials. To the extent they were 
used, it was in hand-written material only, where you're going to see a 
fair amount of variation anyway. There were also two recensions of the 
DA used in printed materials which are materially different, and those 
would best be handled via fonts.

It isn't unreasonable to suggest we change the glyphs we use in the 
Standard. Ken Beesley and I have have discussed the possibility, and we 
both feel that it's very much on the table.

>> It may be that actual users of Deseret read these character variants the same way most of us would read serif vs. sans-serif variants: I.e. unless we are designers or typographers, we don't actually consciously notice the difference.
> I am a designer and typographer, and I’ve worked rather extensively with a variety of Deseret fonts for my publications. They have been well-received.

That's fine, and not disputed at all. That's exactly why I'm looking for 
input from other people.

As an analogy, assume we had a famous type designer coming to this list 
and request that we encode old-style digits separately from roman 
digits, e.g. arguing that this might simplify the production of fonts.

We would understand this request, but we would still deny it because 
based on our day-to-day use of digits, we would understand that at large 
(i.e. for the average user) the convenience of having only one code 
point for a given digit weights stronger than the convenience of 
separate code points for the type designer.

We are looking for similar input from "average users" for Deseret.

>> If that's the case, it would be utterly annoying to these actual users to have to make a distinction between two characters where there actually is none.
> Actually neither of the ligature-letters are used in our Carrollian Deseret volumes.

Ok. That means that these don't provide any information on the 
discussion at hand (whether to unify or disunify the ligature shapes).

>> The richness of the history of the Deseret alphabet can still be preserved e.g. with different fonts the same way we have thousands of different fonts for Latin and many other scripts that show a lot of rich history.
> You know, Martin, I *have* been doing this for the last two decades. I’m well aware of what a font is and can do.

Great. So you know that present-day font technology would allow us to 
handle the different shapes in at least any of the following ways:

1) Separate characters for separate shapes, both shapes in same font
2) Variant selectors, one or both shapes in same font
3) Font features (e.g. 1855 vs. 1859) to select shapes in the same font
4) Font selection, different fonts for different shapes

Does that knowledge in any way suggest one particular solution?

> I’m also aware of what principles we have used for determining character identity.

Which, as we have been working out in other mails, are indeed a 
collection of principles, one of which is history of shape derivation.

> I saw your note about CJK. Unification there typically has something to do with character origin and similarity. The Deseret diphthong letters are clearly based on ligatures of *different* characters.

One of the principles of CJK unification is that minor differences are 
ignored if they are not semantically relevant. For CJK, 'minor' is 
important, because otherwise, many users wouldn't be able to recognize 
the shapes as having the same semantics/usage.

The qualification 'minor' is less important for an alphabet. In general, 
the more established and well-known an alphabet is, the wider the 
variations of glyph shapes that may be tolerated. The question I'm 
trying to get an answer for for Deseret is whether current actual script 
users see the shape variation as just substitutable glyphs of the same 
letter, or inherently different letters.

The answer to this question is not the *only* criterion for deciding 
whether to encode further Deseret letters, but I think it's an important 
criterion. And the answer that John has given seems to point in a very 
clear direction for this question.

Regards,   Martin.

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