Draft proposal: Old Polish nasal vowel letter

Daniel Buncic daniel.buncic at uni-koeln.de
Tue Jan 5 04:11:40 CST 2021

Am 05.01.2021 um 00:20 schrieb Richard Wordingham via Unicode:
> Why isn't this letter just the Polish form of O WITH STROKE?  Using a
> font with the Scandinavian or IPA form appears to result in legible
> text.

Sorry for the delay in answering; your question, as you can see, came
after midnight in my time zone.

Asmus is right that ø is just one of the allographs of the proposed
character, but none of its other allographs, including the main
(‘canonical’) form with the two vertical lines, is an allograph of
Scandinavian ø.  So we have two independent and very different sets of
allographs that happen to overlap in one point.  Apart from that, some
of the allographs of the letter I am proposing also overlap with other
characters – most notably phi, which also exists as a letter of the
Latin alphabet at U+0278, so we might with just as much – or little –
justification treat the proposed letter as a variant of <latin small
letter phi>.  However, we would not want ɸ to be allowed to be used as a
variant of ø, or vice versa.  (This would be a mess in IPA, where they
denote different sounds.)

Moreover, I have tried to show in the text of the proposal that the
default shape of the character should really be the one with the two
little vertical lines and that ø only appears under very specific

• In the original medieval texts:  In very cursive manuscripts, where
all the vertical lines are slanted, the vertical stroke in our letter
also appears as in ø.  In a way, the similarity to the Scandinavian ø is
an optical illusion, because in theory the cursive form of ø should have
a stroke that is even more slanted than the slant of the actually
vertical line of our letter.  One might say that the _cursive_ shape of
the Old Polish nasal vowel looks like the _regular_ shape of
Scandinavian ø, but within the same font variant they would –
theoretically – always be slightly different.

• In modern scholarly texts:  Wherever people have had the technical
means to determine the shape of the letter, they have chosen the shape
with the two vertical lines (fig. 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 of the proposal; and
fig. 10 for an alternative shape).  Fig. 12–16 show situations of
technical constraints, where people did not have the technical means to
choose the ideal shape of the letter.  That this is the case can be
clearly seen from the use of integral symbols instead of long ſ in fig.
12 and from the manual addition of strokes in fig. 13.  Only in such
cases did they choose a form that more or less resembles the actually
intended shape, viz. ø, φ, or ϕ.  But this is really like writing ue in
German because the keyboard does not contain a key for ü, like using
beta β instead of German sharp ß, like using 'typewriter quotes' instead
of ‘real quotes’, like writing <=> instead of ⇔, etc.  As I understand
it, Unicode provides means for exchanging characters in their actual
shape and therefore does not treat something like ⇔ as a mere variant of

I hope this makes it a bit clearer.

Thanks again and all the best,


Prof. Dr. Daniel Bunčić
Slavisches Institut der Universität zu Köln
Weyertal 137, D-50931 Köln
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