Cuneiform (Unicode block)


Cuneiform (Unicode block)

In Unicode, the Sumero-Akkadian Cuneiform script is covered in two blocks:

  • U+12000–U+1237F Cuneiform (879 assigned characters)
  • U+12400–U+1247F Cuneiform Numbers and Punctuation (103 assigned characters)

These blocks, in version 6.0, are in the in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane (SMP).

The sample glyphs in the chart file published by the Unicode Consortium[1] show the characters in their Classical Sumerian form (Early Dynastic period, mid 3rd millennium BCE). The characters as written during the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE, the era during which the vast majority of cuneiform texts were written, are considered font variants of the same characters.

The character set as published in version 5.2 has been criticized, mostly because of its treatment of a number of common characters as ligatures, omitting them from the encoding standard.

Contents

History

The final proposal for Unicode encoding of the script was submitted by two cuneiform scholars working with an experienced Unicode proposal writer in June 2004.[2] The base character inventory is derived from the list of Ur III signs compiled by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative of UCLA based on the inventories of Miguel Civil, Rykle Borger (2003), and Robert Englund. Rather than opting for a direct ordering by glyph shape and complexity, according to the numbering of an existing catalogue, the Unicode order of glyphs was based on the Latin alphabetic order of their 'main' Sumerian transliteration as a practical approximation.

Character inventory and ordering

Of the 907 signs listed by Borger (2003), some 200 have no encoding at a single codepoint. Conversely, a number of combinations considered reducible by Borger were assigned unique codepoints. These differences are due to the difficulty of establishing what represents a single character in cuneiform, and indeed most of Borger's items not encoded have straightforward etymological decomposition. There are still quite a number of universally recognized signs missing, and criticism has been voiced to the effect that the encoding "disregards an important part of the accumulated knowledge of generations of assyriologists about what actually function as single signs in normal texts, and are reflected in the traditional sign lists, most recently and comprehensively Borger's Mesopotamische Zeichenliste".[3] For example, NIN "lady" (in many names of goddesses such as Ninhursag, Ninlil, Ninsar, Ningal etc.; Borger 2003 nr. 887) has to be expressed as MUNUS.TÚG (


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