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Summary Details


Query:   Re Linguist 13.591, Unicode & Tones
Author:  Musgrave, S
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Computational Linguistics
Text/Corpus Linguistics

Summary:   I RECENTLY POSTED THE FOLLOWING QUERY TO THE LIST:

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 USUALLY
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) IT 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 IS:

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?


THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE FOR THEIR RESPONSES TO MY
QUERY:

DEBORAH ANDERSON/
CHUCK BIGELOW
PETER CONSTABLE
ANDREW CUNNINGHAM
TOM EMERSON
JOHN KOONTZ
JOHN KOVARIK
ELIZABETH PYATT
CORY SHEEDY
KEN WHISTLER
MOIRA YIP
MICHAEL

THE FIRST POINT TO EMERGE FROM THE RESPONSES WAS THAT THE UNICODE
STANDARD DOES NOT SPECIFY HOW DIFFERENT CHARACTERS SHOULD COMBINE;
THIS PROBLEM MUST BE HANDLED BY THE SOFTWARE THAT RENDERS THE
CHARACTER SET. JOHN KOONTZ NOTED THAT THE PROBLEM IS NOT LIMITED ONLY
TO HANDLING TONES, BUT ALSO ARISES FOR LINGUISTS IN DEALING WITH, FOR
EXAMPLE, THE DIACRITIC FOR NASALITY, ESPECIALLY IF THAT HAS TO COMBINE
WITH SOME OTHER DIACRITIC ALSO. VARIOUS RESOURCES FOR INVESTIGATING
THESE ISSUES WERE SUGGESTED INCLUDING SIL'S GRAPHITE FONT RENDERING
TECHNOLOGY, AND THE UNICODE DISCUSSION LIST
(HTTP://WWW.UNICODE.ORG/UNICODE/CONSORTIUM/DISTLIST.HTML) ANDREW
CUNNINGHAM NOTED THAT IT SHOULD BE POSSIBLE TO DEFINE OPENTYPE FONTS
WHICH WOULD HANDLE DIACRITIC PLACEMENT, BUT THAT THIS WAS CURRENTLY
PROBLEMATIC FOR WINDOWS USERS AS UNISCRIBE (THE WINDOWS UNICODE SCRIPT
PROCESSOR) TREATS LATIN SCRIPT AS A SIMPLE SCRIPT WHICH DOES NOT
REQUIRE COMPLEX RENDERING. HE REPORTS THAT MICROSOFT ARE ADDRESSING
THE PROBLEM. I DO NOT KNOW WHETHER SIMILAR CONSIDERATIONS APPLY TO THE
IPA SECTION OF THE UNICODE STANDARD.

PETER CONSTABLE NOTED THAT THE 1999 IPA HANDBOOK LISTS ONLY 5 CONTOUR
TONE DIACRITICS, OF WHICH 2 ARE ALREADY SUPPORTED IN UNICODE AND THE
OTHER THREE CANNOT BE GENERATED AS COMBINATIONS OF UNICODE
CHARACTERS. HE SUGGESTS THAT DIACRITICS ARE INHERENTLY LIMITED AS A
MEANS OF REPRESENTING TONE, AND THAT THIS ACCOUNTS FOR THE MEAGRE
REPERTOIRE OF SYMBOLS. OTHER RESPONSES DESCRIBED THE RANGE OF TONE
POSSIBILITIES ATTESTED: UP TO 6 LEVELS (REPORTED FOR CHORI OF NIGERIA
ACCORDING TO DAVE ODDEN) PLUS THE POSIBILITY OF DOWNSTEP AND UPSTEP,
AND

LL Issue: 13.681
Date Posted: 13-Mar-2002
Original Query: Read original query