Standaridized variation sequences for the Desert alphabet?

Michael Everson everson at
Tue Mar 28 07:38:38 CDT 2017

On 28 Mar 2017, at 07:32, Martin J. Dürst <duerst at> wrote:

> On 2017/03/28 01:03, Michael Everson wrote:
>> On 27 Mar 2017, at 16:56, John H. Jenkins <jenkins at> wrote:
>> The 1857 St Louis punches definitely included both the 1855 EW �� and the 1859 OI <����>. Ken Beesley shows them in smoke proofs in his 2004 paper on Metafont.
> Good to have some actual examples. However, the example at hand does, as far as I understand it, not necessarily support separate encoding.

Of course it does.

> While it mixes 1855 and 1859, it contains only one of the ligature variants each.

It’s a smoke proof taken from some metal sorts. It shows that at least these two characters were in that font. 

> Indeed, it could be taken as support for the theory that the top and bottom row ligatures in were used interchangeably, and that the 1857 St Louis punches just made one particular choice of glyph selection.

"Letters to represent the same diphthong” does not mean “letters used interchangeably”. These letters have entirely different histories. They are not similar to one another. They are not “glyph variants” of one another by ANY measure of character identity that I have learned in two decades of this work, where I have examined and successfully proposed a great many characters. Martin, your scepticism just doesn’t convince. It seems like it’s scepticism for its own sake. You only have to, you know, use your EYES to see that 1855 EW looks NOTHING LIKE 1859 EW. Doesn’t matter if they’re used to represent the same sound. That doesn’t mean they’re in free variation. In fact, what it looks like is that early texts may use some letters, later texts may use other letters, and a few texts

This is a matter of SPELLING. Of the choice the author makes. It may be important for dating a manuscript. Representing texts as they are written is as important for early Deseret as it is for medieval Latin, to researchers who care to represent the text as it was without normalizing it to one thing or another. 

> What would give a strong argument would be the *concurrent* existence of *corresponding* ligatures in the same font, or the concurrent (even better, contrasting) use of corresponding ligatures in the same text.

Well, ain’t it just too bad that the accident of history has not left us complete print shops with all the fonts that were ever used for Deseret. 

The origin of these four letters as ligatures of four distinct letters with SHORT I is the right argument for character identity. Recognizability is also a strong argument. We used that when we encoded Phoenician, though some people argued that Semitic studies would collapse if we didn’t treat Phoenician as a font variant of Hebrew. 

Maybe those of you who don’t have to face the ever-moving bar of encoding criteria over and over again don’t remember that stuff. 

> What's interesting (weird?) is that the "1859" OI <����> appears in 1857 punches. Time travel? Or is the label "1859" a misnomer or just a convention?

I think 1859 refers to a particular publication. 

Michael Everson

More information about the Unicode mailing list