Italics get used to express important semantic meaning, so unicode should support them

Richard Wordingham richard.wordingham at
Tue Dec 15 16:32:16 CST 2020

On Fri, 11 Dec 2020 15:38:07 -0700
Doug Ewell via Unicode <unicode at> wrote:

> Christian Kleineidam wrote:
> > "Evidence suggesting that 𝐻𝑜𝑚𝑜 𝑛𝑒𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑠 contributed the H2
> > 𝑀𝐴𝑃𝑇 haplotype to 𝐻𝑜𝑚𝑜 𝑠𝑎𝑝𝑖𝑒𝑛𝑠"  
> "Evidence suggesting that Homo neanderthalensis contributed the H2
> MAPT haplotype to Homo sapiens"
> This title is completely meaningful in plain text. The convention to
> style the names of species and haplotypes in italics is just that, a
> styling convention.

Yet there are cases where meaning is completely lost.  There was a
Latin script spelling for Pali and Sanskrit that used italicised
guttural letters for palatals, and italicised letters where nowadays we
normally have a dot below.  I think this scheme was introduced by Max
Mueller.  Thus, a Sanskrit sequence meaning 'and this' is written not
'tacca' but 'ta𝑘𝑘a'.  (I naturally misread the latter as though it were
'takka'.)  That naturally raises the question of how such italic letters
are to be italicised!

I've also seen phonetic respelling of English in the Thai script
where italicised consonants are used for English consonants for which
Thai has no equivalent.

When documenting program, there is a massive gain in readability when
the lower case names of programs and variables are written out in a
typewriter-style font like Courier.  (Some monospace fonts lack the


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