Encoding italic (was: A last missing link)

Mark E. Shoulson via Unicode unicode at unicode.org
Fri Jan 18 09:58:59 CST 2019

On 1/16/19 7:16 AM, Andrew Cunningham via Unicode wrote:
> HI Victor, an off list reply. The contents are just random thoughts 
> sparked by an interesting conversation.
> On Wed, 16 Jan 2019 at 22:44, Victor Gaultney via Unicode 
> <unicode at unicode.org <mailto:unicode at unicode.org>> wrote:
>     - It finally, and conclusively, would end the decades of the mess
>     in HTML that surrounds <em> and <italic>.
> I am not sure that would fix the issue, more likely compound the issue 
> making it even more blurry what the semantic purpose is. HTML5 make 
> both <i> and <e> semantic ... and by the definition the style of the 
> elements is not necessarily italic. <em> for instance would be script 
> dependant, <i> may be partially script dependant when another 
> appropriate semantic tag is missing. A character/encoding level 
> distinction is just going to compound the mess.

A good point, too.  While italics are being used sort of as an example, 
what the "evidence" really is for (and by evidence I mean what I alluded 
to at the end of my last post, over centuries of writing) is that people 
like to *emphasize* things from time to time.  It's really more the 
semantic side of "this text should be read louder."  So not so much 
"italic marker" but "emphasis marker."

But... that ignores some other points made here, about specific meanings 
attached to italics (or underlining, in some settings), like 
distinguishing book or movie titles (or vessel names) from common or 
proper nouns.  Is it better to lump those with emphasis as "italic", or 
better to distinguish them semantically, as "emphasis marker" vs "title 
marker"?  And if we did the latter, would ordinary folks know or care to 
make that distinction?  I tend to doubt it.

>     My main point in suggesting that Unicode needs these characters is
>     that italic has been used to indicate specific meaning - this text
>     is somehow special - for over 400 years, and that content should
>     be preserved in plain text.
> Underlying, bold text, interletter spacing, colour change, font style 
> change all are used to apply meaning in various ways. Not sure why 
> italic is special in this sense. Additionally without encoding the 
> meaning of italic, all you know is that it is italic, not what 
> convention of semantic meaning lies behind it.

Um... yeah.  That's what I meant, also.

> And I am curious on your thoughts, if we distinguish italic in 
> Unicode, encode some way of spacifying italic text, wouldn't it make 
> more sense to do away with italic fonts all together? and just roll 
> the italic glyphs into the regular font?

Eh.  Fonts are not really relevant to this.  Unicode already has more 
characters than you can put into a single font.  It's just as sensible, 
still, to have italic fonts and switch to them, just like you have to 
switch to your Thai font when you hit Thai text that your default font 
doesn't support.  (However, this knocks out the simplicity of using 
OpenType to handle it, as has been suggested.)

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