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

David Starner prosfilaes at
Mon Dec 21 03:48:02 CST 2020

On Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 1:10 AM Martin J. Dürst via Unicode
<unicode at> wrote:
> > She _loves_ him !?! (= I can't believe her emotion towards him is love.)
> > She loves _him_ !?! (= I can't believe that he is the one she loves,
> > and not someone else.)
> >
> > And the prosody varies accordingly, and any accurate preservation in
> > writing would need to record the difference.
> I think the above "and most be preserved in writing" is easy to
> misunderstand, as it is a bit too strong. It wouldn't have been
> preserved on very early computers (or earlier, in telegrams) that only
> used upper case. But there was a very strong expectation that it would
> be preserved on things as simple as a typewriter, and definitely also in
> handwriting.

Er, but that's a different argument altogether. An expectation that it
be preserved is entirely different from "any accurate preservation in
writing would need to record the difference."

> On the other hand, there is no such expectation for your example. If
> prosody has to be reconstructed, that might happen e.g. from context
> (e.g. in a playscript), or the sentences might have been rewritten for
> clarity in the first place.

I'd say there's certainly an expectation that emphasis be preserved in
those statements in some way. If those were real statements, one can
not simply rewrite them, and if they were used in fiction, rewriting
would change the colloquial effect.

>  And please note that your alternate history does NOT lead to
> technology that encodes italics separately.

Sure. The response was about the silliness of the argument, not for
italics being encoded.

> [And that I was perfectly
> able to put stress on a word in the previous sentence without italics,
> even if the main purpose of that was just to make a point.]

You also could have written the sentence in all caps.

> > * Italics marking in English could serve the same role in making a
> > bunch of examples; e.g. "The French man said to stop at the coin" and
> > "The French man said to stop at the <i>coin</i>." mean different
> > things.
> The important thing here is "could". Unicode doesn't invent writing
> systems. And I have to admit that I don't understand the difference
> between these two sentences even with your italic markup. But that may
> be only me.

I could create many examples where the italics distinguishes the
meaning, because, like the Fraktur/Antigua example, one use of italics
in English is to denote foreign words. English "coin" and French
"coin" are false friends; the first sentence says to stop at the coin,
and the second says to stop at the corner.

The standard is written in English . If you have trouble understanding
a particular section, read it again and again and again . . . Sit up
straight. Eat your vegetables. Do not mumble. -- _Pascal_, ISO 7185

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