CJK: February 2007 Archives

RUBY Vertical Text for Japanese? (2007 Update)

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Did you want robust vertical text or furigana support on the Web? Well maybe you'll get it some day, but not in early 2007 (unless you go the PDF route).

But check in with the W3C RUBY Annotation Specification page for more details and tests. Currently, CSS3 is scheduled to include RUBY formatting attributes.

CSS3 is also scheduled to include a "writing-mode" attribute for other types of vertical writing, but these must be incorporated into the various browsers and text devices.

FYI - There is a vertical text CSS spec out there but it ONLY works in Internet Explorer 6/7 for Windows, so I don't recommend it. It's documented at the Penn State TLT International Vertical Text page.

But I'm positive....Some year, "someday" of vertical text support may be today!

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Unicode Angst in Japan and East Asia

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The site Unicode in Japan tracks the history of encoding in Japan and explains the technical and not-so-technical issues for Unicode detractors. An even harsher criticism was written by Norman Goundry (date 2001).

One problem for the East Asian languages is that different countries (China, Taiwan, Japan) may use different shapes to draw the "same" character. But since Chinese writing is made up of thousands of charcters, the question then become how many variations are needed.

The Unicode Consortium proposed Han Character Unification to avoid designating too many characters, but this has its quirks. One potential problem is that the same "character" could look very different if you are using a Japanese font vs. a Chinese font. Thus you are back to specifying fonts again.

Issues like this are one reason national character sets like Shift-JIS for Japanese persist. For instance, the Mojikyo Character set has been developed apart from Unicode specifically to support archaic Japanese characters and other variants.

Is it hopeless? Probably not. For one thing Unicode has been rapidly evolving so that 2006 Unicode is quite different from 2001 Unicode. Every version from Unicode 3.1 through Unicode 5.0 has added characters and specifications to resolve older issues with Asian encoding.

Another plus is that the Unicode Consortium seems to be changing its policy on unifying every script...all sorts of historical variations are popping up in even the Western European Latin blocks. My favorite has been the encoding of German Fraktur letters and Gaelic alphabetic variants.

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Bill Poser's Notes on Chinese Character Simplification

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This article by Bill Poser of the Language Log explains some of the mechanics of Simiplified vs. Traditional Chinese characters and the rationale for some of the objections raised. He also confirms that Simplified characters may be more phonetically based on Mandarin forms, and could be harder for non Mandarin speakers to memorize.

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About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage (ejp10@psu.edu) for a profile.

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