Standaridized variation sequences for the Desert alphabet?

John H. Jenkins jenkins at
Wed Mar 29 15:45:27 CDT 2017

> On Mar 29, 2017, at 4:12 AM, Martin J. Dürst <duerst at> wrote:
> Let me start with a short summary of where I think we are at, and how we got there.
> - The discussion started out with two letters,
>  with two letter forms each. There is explicit talk of the
>  40-letter alphabet and glyphs in the Wikipedia page, not
>  of two different letters.
> - That suggests that IF this script is in current use, and the
>  shapes for these diphthongs are interchangeable (for those
>  who use the script day-to-day, not for meta-purposes such
>  as historic and typographic texts), keeping things unified
>  is preferable.
> - As far as we have heard (in the course of the discussion,
>  after questioning claims made without such information),
>  it seems that:
>  - There may not be enough information to understand how the
>    creators and early users of the script saw this issue,
>    on a scale that may range between "everybody knows these
>    are the same, and nobody cares too much who uses which,
>    even if individual people may have their preferences in
>    their handwriting" to something like "these are different
>    choices, and people wouldn't want their texts be changed
>    in any way when published".

I see this part of the problem more one of proper transcription of existing materials, and less of one of what the original authors saw the issues as. Handwritten material is very important in the study of 19th century LDS history, and although the materials actually in the DA are scant (at best), the peculiarities of the spelling can be instructive. As such, I certainly agree that being able to transcribe material "faithfully" is important.

I'm not an expert in this area, though, so I can't speak for myself whether this separate encoding or variation selectors or some other mechanism is the best way to provide support for this. I'm more than happy to defer to Michael and other people who *are* experts. If paleographers think separate encoding is best, then I'm for separate encoding. 

>  - Similarly, there seem to be not enough modern practitioners
>    of the script using the ligatures that could shed any
>    light on the question asked in the previous item in a
>    historical context, first apparently because there are not
>    that many modern practitioners at all, and second because
>    modern practitioners seem to prefer spelling with
>    individual letters rather than using the ligatures.

Well, as one of the people in this camp, and as Michael has pointed out, I eschew use of these letters altogether. I restrict myself to the 1869 version of the alphabet, which is used in virtually all of the printed materials and has only thirty-eight letters. 

> - IF the above is true, then it may be that these ligatures
>  are mostly used for historic purposes only, in which case
>  it wouldn't do any harm to present-day users if they were separated.
> If the above is roughly correct, then it's important that we reached that conclusion after explicitly considering the potential of a split to create inconvenience and confusion for modern practitioners, not after just looking at the shapes only, coming up with separate historical derivations for each of them, and deciding to split because history is way more important than modern practice.

Fortunately, since the existing Deseret block is full, any separately encoded entities will have to be put somewhere else, making it easier to document the nature and purpose of the symbols involved. 

Not that we can be confident that it will help. ( <>)

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