Using unicode for diacriticals

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Tue Nov 24 00:16:08 UTC 2009

Note that in Unicode, the standard Indic diacriticals work fine (I'm not sure about Vedic accents).  I have a Mac keyboard driver, if anyone is interested -- it uses the slash as a dead key and makes entering diacriticals (classical Sanskrit, Tamil at least) quite easy.  I'm sure it would be simple to write a similar driver for Windows 7, though I don't know how to do it.  I think we should try to move away from all the clunky older systems (like my own TimesIndian) to unicode -- and also avoid such readable but inelegant formulations as sa.mbhavaami (saṃbhavāmi) or, worse, zaastraaNi (śāstrāṇi).

Here is the beginning of the Meghadūta (Meghasandeśa) in unicode.

kaścit kāntāvirahaguruṇā svādhikārāt pramattaḥ
śāpenāstaṅgamitamahimā varṣabhogyena bhartuḥ

Here's some Tamil:

kārviri koṉṟaip poṉṉēr putumalart
tāraṉ mālaiyaṉ malainta kaṇṇiyaṉ
mārpiṉaḥtē maiyil nuṇñāṇ
nutala timaiyā nāṭṭam ikalaṭṭuk
kaiyatu kaṇicciyoṭu maḻuvē mūvāy....

If anyone wants my keyboard driver, drop me a line.  I also have a Nisus macro to translate TimesIndian to unicode.  This works fine in Windows 7 -- I just pasted the above into a Word 07 document, and the diacriticals are there in Helvetica and New Times Roman.  They also work in the latest Office for Mac and other Mac programs.  (To my surprise, it also seems to work in XP, which I just tried).  Of course, you have to use a font that has the standard Unicode diacriticals.  It would be nice also to use Devanagari, Tamil, Telugu etc. unicode, but entering those writing systems (except Tamil) tends to be quite difficult unless one practices a lot.

I think this is important, as use of the unicode fonts that now come standard on every computer makes it possible to read, edit and search Indic texts easily.  I have received theses and papers in Word format with 8 or 9 different encoding systems -- and ended up having to install fonts for each.  And even if the document is a pdf, you still can't search it unless you have the font and a way of inputting it.  Unicode solves these problems.  

Does anyone know of a good Windows keyboard driver for inputting these diacritics?  George Hart

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