Jawi's Hamzah Three-Quarters: Providing more context and point of views

Lim Jia Ming jiaminglimjm at gmail.com
Wed Apr 27 14:43:26 CDT 2022

Replying to document: [L2/22-068] Recommendations to UTC #171 April 2022 
on Script Proposals (III) Arabic (4c) High Hamza

I would like to sincerely thank the SAH and the UTC for having seriously 
considered the handling of Jawi's Hamzah situation. I am here just to 
provide more context and points of view that has not yet been given 
about the usage of this character.

The first point I would like to establish is the distinction of Hamzah 
Tiga Suku (Hamzah Three-Quarters; HTQ) as a complete definition in 
contrast to descriptions of a slightly higher hamza. Even though in 
practice it is basically that, a roughly shifted up hamza, it is in 
principle its own precise and unique concept that cannot be replaced by 
the description 'High Hamza'. This is taught in schools and is widely 
recognised by users of the Jawi script.[note1] Although I do recognize 
that other similar characters in other languages have been merged to the 
same codepoint, I believe that HTQ deserves to have its Three-Quarter 
concept annotated in the Unicode standard at the very least, and that if 
it were to be added as a codepoint to be named something like ARABIC 

Something important to note is that there is an ongoing movement to 
simply stop using Hamzah Three-Quarters (HTQ) in favour of the U+0621 
Arabic Hamza. It began in July 2019 during a live radio session citing 
Unicode limitations as one of its reasons.[ref1] However, since the 
addition of HTQ as U+0674 High Hamza in the Unicode 14.0 standard, the 
argument has shifted to "it was never part of the original Arabic 
script, so why must we use it?". Some of us youngsters reject this 
argument for it having overly-Arabization sentiments. But to their 
credit, in practice, HTQ and Arabic letter Hamza really do look similar 
enough to the point that the latter is an effective replacement for the 
former (for the promotion of the Jawi script overall), despite it being 
the rarer form of Hamzah. Also, it should be noted that HTQ is by far 
the most common form of Hamzah in Jawi, such that its absence in common 
usage is achingly noticeable, with the other forms of Hamza mostly only 
found in loanwords or when combining prefixes to roots.[note2]

The campaign for the eradication of HTQ has been quite successful, 
evidenced by the most popular Jawi twitter account @koleksijawi (created 
in January 2021) posting images with custom Jawi fonts,[ref2] and 
popular book Nirnama by Hilal Asyraf,[ref3] using only the Arabic Hamza 
instead of the HTQ.[note3] This also explains why there have been very 
few attempts to implement U+0674 High Hamza as HTQ even after the 
Unicode 14.0 standard came out: it is much easier to use Arabic Hamza 
than to support U+0647 High Hamza. The reason being that the former has 
been advocated by experts, and that the latter is unlikely to gain 
language tag support in mainstream platforms and messaging apps (via 
auto-detection of language?) in any reasonable amount of time, if ever. 
In conclusion, Arabic letter Hamza will continue to be the default 
'fallback' without a counter-movement to preserve Hamzah Three-Quarters.

The fact is that the Kazakh version of U+0674 High Hamza looks too 
different and no one will use it unless it fully works on all their 
platforms. Though we do realize that similar problems exist with the 
addition of its own codepoint, the difference is that it would have its 
own rightful name without the need of specifying language. This explains 
why some of us are so keen on HTQ having its own codepoint, because in 
name it would recognize the uniqueness of the HTQ and boost an 
opportunity to promote its usage properly. Therefore, I urge the SAH 
group to reconsider the consensus built around what to do with HTQ and I 
hope that it will get its own codepoint.

Thank you very much for reading, we patiently await your feedback.

Best regards,
Jia Ming.

[L2/22-068] https://www.unicode.org/L2/L2022/22068-script-adhoc-rept.pdf

[ref1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLPTDng1XcE (in Malay with 
English subtitles)
[ref2] https://twitter.com/koleksijawi/status/1502795097053679619 (one 
example of many)
[ref3] https://twitter.com/No_RuLesz/status/1459435348598030341 (Jawi 
version, published in 2021)

[note1] Hamzah Three-Quarters continues to be in school textbooks and 
has not been replaced with Arabic letter Hamza (yet?)
[note2] Hamzah Three-Quarters is more common by up to several orders of 
magnitude in terms of occurrences as dictionary entries, though not 
necessarily so in the wild as that has not yet been properly analysed
[note3] Recently, several shops with new signboards in Kelantan appear 
to be adopting the Arabic Hamza as well, instead of HTQ

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