[INDOLOGY] ISO15919 and case insensitivity

Dániel Balogh danbalogh at gmail.com
Fri Jun 21 11:30:32 UTC 2019

Dear All, thanks for your comments about the ISO encoding issue. In hopes
of keeping the discussion afloat, here are some responses.

Rolf Heinrich Koch's problem seems to relate to the Unicode standard and
not to ISO15919 or any other specific encoding system. I have no first-hand
knowledge, but I think the unicode consortium can be approached to
designate code points for additional Latin letters with diacritical marks;
I think, however, that this is a complicated and lengthy process that
carries little chance of success since the combination in question seems to
be needed only by a very small population of scholars. It is, however,
always possible to use a combining diacritic to generate the character m̌
(or, according to ISO15919, m̆). For this, use a regular m followed by the
character U+030C (floating caron) or, for the latter, U+0306 (floating
breve). Similarly, r and l with circle below (used instead of the IAST
underdot to represent vocalic r and l) can only be typed as such a

To George Hart's problem, as pointed out by Heinrich, a partial solution is
already present. ISO15919 prescribes ē and ō in Sanskrit texts/words of a
mixed corpus that includes languages where short and long e/o are
distinguished. As a nod to IAST and the widespread practice of
Sanskritists, it _allows_ e and o for these long vowels so long as they are
used in a Sanskrit-only corpus. I agree that the situation is not ideal,
but - rather than persuading Sanskritists to use ē and ō consistently - the
way to improve it may be the use of language tagging, so that any segment
of transliterated Indic text can be recognised by a computer as belonging
to a particular language.

For the issues raised by Tyler Williams: I think the first one (alternative
glyphs for the same phoneme) is beyond the scope of transliteration and
belongs either to a palaeographic description or, if machine readability
and indexability are desired, to the sphere of markup. As for the second, I
would be interested in some further details, on or off list. Are any vowel
mātrās other than what would normally represent an ā used in such a way?
Could you give some examples, what language, time period, and what does the
addition of an extra mātrā signify? Arlo and I have been thinking about a
way of representing one particular case of this, and if there are other
related phenomena, then knowing about them would help us propose a solution
that can be extended to those.

To Andrew Ollett's caution that using uppercase Latin letters for final
consonant forms may not be better than adding the transliteration
equivalent of a virāma (and likewise, uppercase for independent vowels
versus a special marker attached to the transliterated vowel), I can only
say that I also have no strong argument for this usage. The weak arguments
for would run like this: 1. better grapheme-to-grapheme matching between
the original script and the transliteration; and 2. actually, easier
automated processing in some cases at least, e.g. a basic case insensitive
search would still find the expected results in a transliterated text that
uses uppercase for these purposes, while the search algorithm would need to
be devised to ignore the additional marks for independent vowel and virāma.
The same applies to downcasing the text for conversion to Devanagari - it
should be no problem. I should add that we do want to retain a special
virāma equivalent for glyphs with an explicit virāma, though this is also
slightly problematic, e.g. in case of the "proto-virāma" comprised of a
small dash or arch on top of a subscript final consonant form

The very best to everyone,

On Thu, 20 Jun 2019 at 19:00, Andrew Ollett via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> A point of clarification: would the same document ever use both a "halant
> variant" of a letter (e.g., the final n of the Kannada script) and the
> standard variant followed by a virāma sign? I'm asking because my instinct
> would be to simply represent the halant variant of a consonant C as C· (or
> whatever sign you're using for the virāma). It's true that the final form
> of the letter in Kannada doesn't "look like" a regular n with a virāma, but
> then again the letter kh doesn't look like k + h.
> I'm sure Dániel knows of it, but in case others don't, an article that
> Arlo co-authored with Bob Hudson, Marc Miyake and Julian Wheatley (BEFEO
> 103 [2017]: 43–205) includes a discussion of adapting the ISO-15919
> standards for Pyu, according to which °V is used for an independent vowel
> sign and · is used for the virāma. I have been using these conventions for
> diplomatic transcription. I don't have a strong argument for or against
> uppercase letters in transliteration, but here are two weak arguments
> against it: (1) uppercase letters are more likely to cause problems in any
> automated processing (e.g., replacements or transliteration) especially in
> mixed-language text; (2) people sometimes use Western capitalization style
> for transliterated text, and even though the use of this style (e.g., in
> lists of bibliographic references) will almost never overlap with the
> epigraphic and codicological applications Dániel has in mind, we might want
> to avoid certain letters changing their meaning across use-cases. For what
> it's worth, I often have text in ISO-15919 that I feed into Sanscript to be
> transliterated into Indic scripts, and I always downcase the text before
> applying the transliteration.
> Andrew
> On Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 11:50 AM Tyler Williams via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> Dear Dániel (and Arlo),
>> While I'm afraid that I cannot contribute any answers to your questions,
>> I do want to express support for your effort of finding ways to modify
>> ISO15919 for epigraphical and codicological material. In addition to the
>> issue of initial/full vowels and missing consonant glyphs in manuscripts, I
>> frequently run into problems with transliterating manuscript material
>> (usually vernacular but sometimes Sanskrit) that 1) uses multiple glyphs
>> for the what is ostensibly the same consonant (perhaps the result of
>> unstated phonological rules), or 2) in which vowel matras are used appended
>> to full vowel glyphs to indicate certain sounds (e.g. dipthongs). This is
>> in addition to the numerous challenges posed by transliterating texts
>> copied in the Arabic script, which represents morphological distinctions
>> orthographically through the use of word breaks, diacritical marks, etc.
>> All this to say that, should there be a discussion on proposed changes, I
>> would be happy to contribute (and learn from others).
>> Best,
>> Tyler
>> On Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 6:54 PM Arlo Griffiths via INDOLOGY <
>> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>>> Dear colleagues,
>>> It is possible to obtain some responses to the questions that Dániel
>>> asked on our joint behalf? It would be greatly appreciated.
>>> Many thanks, and best wishes,
>>> Arlo Griffiths
>>> ------------------------------
>>> *From:* INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of
>>> Dániel Balogh via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info>
>>> *Sent:* Monday, June 10, 2019 10:52 AM
>>> *To:* indology
>>> *Subject:* [INDOLOGY] ISO15919 and case insensitivity
>>> Dear All,
>>> I believe some members of the esteemed community reading this were
>>> involved in drawing up the ISO15919 transliteration standard. I would be
>>> very happy to correspond with someone, here or off-list, about some generic
>>> issues and at the moment one particular question.
>>> The generic issues would pertain to using a modified ISO standard in web
>>> and hardcopy publications, including some modifications that prevent us
>>> from making a "claim of conformance" as per section 2 of the standard.
>>> Beyond the practical issue of having to explain to our readers where we
>>> deviate from the standard, I see no problem associated with this, but I may
>>> be missing something. At any rate, a proliferation of idiosyncratic
>>> transliteration systems is not desirable, which leads to the second set of
>>> generic issues: by whom and how is the ISO standard maintained at present,
>>> and is there any chance of proposing slight modifications/addenda/special
>>> cases to it?
>>> The particular question right now is this. The standard explicitly says
>>> that all transliterations must be case insensitive (Section 8.1 Rule 1).
>>> Some of us, however, are thinking of using uppercase Roman characters to
>>> transliterate 1. final consonants represented in historic scripts by
>>> special "halanta" character forms (instead of the addition of a virāma
>>> sign), and 2. initial/full vowels.
>>> The latter could be made clear using the disambiguation sign already
>>> codified in the standard (e.g. transliterating प्रउग as pra:uga), but we
>>> feel that using Roman uppercase for both these phenomena is intuitively
>>> similar to the practice of the original script. [Not directly relevant to
>>> the question at hand is that we would also introduce an additional symbol
>>> for transliterating the explicit virāma sign to handle final or conjunct
>>> consonants created with such a sign.]
>>> We would use this notation for epigraphic material, but as far as I can
>>> see it would be equally advantageous in codicology where a diplomatic
>>> transliteration is desirable. Unambiguously (and in some cases redundantly)
>>> differentiating final vowel forms is useful not only in cases where these
>>> are used as a means of text segmentation (e.g. the final consonant of a
>>> verse quarter is inscribed using a special form, followed by the initial
>>> consonant of the next quarter, without an intervening punctuation sign but
>>> with the clear intent of representing the yati in writing), but also where
>>> partially legible text precedes or follows a lacuna (e.g. occasionally a
>>> legible vowel mātrā is attached to a lost/illegible consonant, and it is
>>> desirable to make it clear in the transliteration that the vowel read is
>>> not a full vowel akṣara).
>>> Many thanks in advance for any enlightening comments, and my apologies
>>> for going into possibly unnecessary detail on the why and how.
>>> Daniel
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