Encoding italic

Julian Bradfield via Unicode unicode at unicode.org
Mon Jan 21 02:29:24 CST 2019

On 2019-01-21, James Kass via Unicode <unicode at unicode.org> wrote:
> Consider superscript/subscript digits as a similar styling issue. The 
> Wikipedia page for Romanization of Chinese includes information about 
> the Wade-Giles system’s tone marks, which are superscripted digits.
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization_of_Chinese
> Copy/pasting an example from the page into plain-text results in “ma1, 
> ma2, ma3, ma4”, although the web page displays the letters as italic and 
> the digits as (italic) superscripts.  IMO, that’s simply wrong with 
> respect to the superscript digits and suboptimal with respect to the 
> italic letters.

Wade-Giles (which should be written with an en-dash, not a hyphen, if
we're going to be fussy - as indeed Wikipedia is) is obsolete, but one
could say the same about pinyin. However, printed pinyin with tones
almost invariably uses the combining diacritics; in email where most people
can't be bothered to write diacritics, tone numbers are written just
as you have written above, with a following ascii digit. (With the
proviso that Chinese speakers don't usually write tones at all when
they write in pinyin.) They're often written like that even in web
pages, where superscripts would be easy - see Victor Mair's frequent
Language Log posts about Chinese writing and printing.
This seems significantly less wrong to me that writing H2SO4 for
H<sub>2</sub>SO<sub>4</sub> which is also common in plain text...

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