Ancient Greek apostrophe marking elision

Michael Everson via Unicode unicode at
Sat Jan 26 20:25:41 CST 2019

On 27 Jan 2019, at 01:37, Richard Wordingham via Unicode <unicode at> wrote:
>> I’ll be publishing a translation of Alice into Ancient Greek in due
>> course. I will absolutely only use U+2019 for the apostrophe. It
>> would be wrong for lots of reasons to use U+02BC for this.
> Please list them.

The Greek use is of an apostrophe. Often a mark elision (as here), that’s what 2019 is for.

02BC is a letter. Usually a glottal stop. 

I didn’t follow the beginning of this. Evidently it has something to do with word selection of d’ + a space + what follows. If that’s so, then there’s no argument at all for 02BC. It’s a question of the space, and that’s got nothing to do with the identity of the apostrophe.

> Will your coding decision be machine readable for the readership?

I don’t know what you mean by “readable”.

>> Moreover, implementations of U+02BC need to be revised. In the
>> context of Polynesian languages, it is impossible to use U+02BC if it
>> is _identical_ to U+2019. Readers cannot work out what is what. I
>> will prepare documentation on this in due course.
> It looks as though you've found a new character - or a revived
> distinction.

It may not be “revived’. In origin, linguists took the lead-type 2019 and used it as a consonant letter. Now, in the 21st century, where Harry Potter is translated into Hawaiian, and where Harry Potter has glottals alongside both single and double quotation marks, the 02BC’s need to be bigger or the text can’t be read easily. In our work we found that a vertical height of 140% bigger than the quotation mark improved legibility hugely. Fine typography asks for some other alterations to the glyph, but those are cosmetic.

If the recommended glyph for 02BC were to be changed, it would in no case impact adversely on scientific linguistics texts. It would just make the mark a bit bigger. But for practical use in Polynesian languages where the character has to be found alongside the quotation marks, a glyph distinction must be made between this and punctuation.

Michael Everson

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