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Query Details

Query Subject:   Query re Unicode and tone languages
Author:   Musgrave, S.
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   In developing a typological database which will include text data from
numerous languages, we have encountered a problem with the
representation of tone using Unicode fonts (we are using Lucida Sans
Unicode in our application). The Unicode standard includes two
diacritics which can be used to represent contour tones, those
normally used for HL and LH contours. But many languages have more
contour tones than these two: for example, Ngiti has three tone levels
and all combinations of levels allowed in one contour tone: HM, HL,
LH, LM, MH, ML. In principle it should be possible to combine more
than one diacritic with a text character in a Unicode font, and
therefore (if the font in question includes the full diacritic set) i
should be possible to provide diacritics for all contour
tones. However, our attempts suggest that this method is not workable
because the positioning of diacritics cannot be controlled finely
enough. That is, the various diacritics tend to be positioned on top
of one another, rather than beside each other. Our first question then

1) has anyone else had more success in producing diacritics for
contour tones using the Unicode standard, and if so, what technique
was used?

If no satisfactory answers to this question emerge, we intend to
explore the possibility of creating a set of contour tone diacritics
for inclusion in Unicode, either as a part of the user-defined area
which the standard makes available, or (preferably) as a part of the
defined standard encoding. To this end, we also seek answers to a
second question:

2) what range of contour tones have been reported for the languages of
the world?

We will post a summary of responses to the list.

Simon Musgrave
Spinoza Program Lexicon and Syntax (SPLS)
University of Leiden

LL Issue: 13.591
Date posted: 04-Mar-2002


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