BabelStone Blog

Sunday, 20 October 2013

What's new in Unicode 7.0 ?

Previously discussed :

The two previous releases of Unicode (6.2 and 6.3) have been rather disappointing with regards to the number of new characters introduced into the standard (one in 6.2 and five in 6.3), so Unicode 7.0 should be much more exciting to those of us who think that 110,000 characters in Unicode are not nearly enough. In summary, 2,833 2,834* new characters are going to be added to Unicode 7.0 when it is released in the summer of 2014 (official beta information page for Unicode 7.0.0). Of these, 1,849 characters belong to 23 newly added scripts, which is a greater number of new scripts than for any previous version since Unicode 1.0 (which started life with 24 scripts).

* When I wrote this blog post there were going to be 2,833 new characters, but since then the newly invented Ruble sign has been fast-tracked for encoding in Unicode 7.0 at U+20BD.

23 new scripts in Unicode 7.0

Although all of these new scripts are either historical or have limited modern usage, and most people will be unfamilar with most of them, there are several important additions, notably Grantha and Siddham, as well as Linear A, which may be the first undeciphered writing system to be encoded in Unicode (depending upon whether the symbols on the Phaistos Disc, encoded in Unicode 5.1, represent writing or not).

Apart from the new scripts, the highlight of Unicode 7.0 for most people on the internet will be the addition of 643 wingdings, webdings and other pictographic symbols, which will supplement the emoticons, emoji and many other symbols added to Unicode 6.0. I predict that characters such as "Reversed Hand with Middle Finger Extended", "Reversed Victory Hand" (British equivalent of the finger), and "Raised Hand with Part Between Middle and Ring Fingers" (live long and prosper) will become even more popular on Twitter than the infamous "Pile of Poo" 💩 character*.

* Pile of Poo was encoded in the Unicode standard for compatibility with Japanese telecoms companies (KDDI & Softbank) which included it as part of the Emoji repertoire on their cell phones (see the original Emoji proposal where the character is provisionally named "Dung", later changed to "Pile of Poo" at the suggestion of Michael Everson).

FDAM2 code chart images of characters 1F594 through 1F596

However, the character that seems to be causing the most stir amongst the twitterati is U+1F574 "MAN IN BUSINESS SUIT LEVITATING". People are asking why Unicode has seen fit to encode this particular character. The answer is that in 2011 my good friend Michel Suignard (and project editor of ISO/IEC 10646) proposed to encode the set of symbols used in the widely-used Wingdings and Webdings fonts that were not already in Unicode or unifiable with an existing character. The Webdings font that ships with Microsoft Windows includes a glyph for a man in a business suit apparently levitating at U+F06D () (also accessible as "m" m unless you are using Firefox), and it is being encoded in Unicode 7.0 simply because the glyph is in the Webdings font and it is not unifiable with any existing Unicode character. So if you still want to know why Unicode 7.0 will include a character for MAN IN BUSINESS SUIT LEVITATING you had better ask Vincent Connare et al. why they included the glyph in Webdings in 1997 in the first place.*

* According to Microsoft's Webdings page: Our team of iconographers traveled the world asking site designers and users which symbols, icons and pictograms they thought would be most appropriate for a font of this kind. From thousands of suggestions we had to pick just two hundred and thirty for inclusion in Webdings.

** According to Jen Sorenson, in this blog post from 2009, the Man in Business Suit Levitating glyph in the Webdings font was intended to be an exclamation mark in the style of the rude boy logo found on records by The Specials published under the 2 Tone Records label. So perhaps the Unicode character would have been better named Rude Boy Exclamation Mark. Thanks to Ted Mielczarek for pointing this out to me.

BabelMap showing Webdings character F06D

Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646

Many people seem to think that characters are randomly added to the Unicode standard at a whim, and I can understand why it sometimes seems like that to an outside observer, but in fact the process of adding characters is far from simple. The Unicode standard is synchronized with the international standard, ISO/IEC 10646 ("Information technology—Universal Multiple-Octet Coded Character Set (UCS)"), and the contents of each version of the Unicode standard are largely determined by the committee work and balloting process for ISO/IEC 10646 by national standardization organizations (such as ANSI, BSI, DIN), although as the Unicode Consortium is represented on the committee responsible for ISO/IEC 10646 directly as a liaison member and indirectly via the US national body, it plays a very important role in this process (for more information on the relationship between the Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 standards, see my blog post on Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646).

Unicode 6.1, released in January 2012, corresponds to ISO/IEC 10646:2012, which was published in June 2012 (freely available from the ISO web site as a set of PDF files and a set of electronic inserts). Amendment 1 to ISO/IEC 10646:2012 was published earlier this year, and one character only from Amd.1 (the Turkish Lira Sign) was added to the Unicode standard in version 6.2 released in September 2012. Amendment 2 to ISO/IEC 10646:2012 is currently in its final stage of balloting, and will be published late this year or early next year. Five characters only from Amd.2 (Arabic Letter Mark, Left-To-Right Isolate, Right-To-Left Isolate, First Strong Isolate, Pop Directional Isolate) were added to the Unicode standard in version 6.3 released at the end of September 2013. The repertoire of Unicode 7.0 will correspond to ISO/IEC 10646:2012 plus Amendments 1 and 2, and so the new characters encoded in 7.0 will correspond to those added to Amendment 1 (1,769 characters) and Amendment 2 (1,070 characters), minus the six characters already added in 6.2 and 6.3 (1,769 + 1,070 - 6 = 2,833 new characters in Unicode 7.0).

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 ("Linear A, Palmyrene, Manichaean, Khojki, Khudawadi, Bassa Vah, Duployan, and other characters") has already been published, so no changes to character allocations or character names in Unicode can be made. This amendment includes 1,769 new characters, as detailed in the tables below. You can download code charts covering the new characters from here or here.

Additions to Existing Blocks (339 characters)
Block Characters Documents
Greek and Coptic
037F: Capital letter yot N3997
058D..058E: 2 Armenian eternity signs N3923
0605: Mark used with Coptic numbers N3843
Arabic Extended-A
08A1: 1 letter used for Fulfulde N3882
08AD..08B1: 5 letters used for Bashkir, Belarusian, Crimean Tatar, and Tatar languages N4072
08FF: 1 letter used for Palula and Shina N4072
0978: 1 letter used for Marwari N3970
0C00: Candrabindu N3964
0C81: Candrabindu N3964
0D01: Candrabindu N3964
0DE6..0DEF: 10 digits for astrological use N3888
191D..191E: 2 consonant conjuncts N3975
Combining Diacritical Marks Supplement
1DE7..1DF4: 14 combining letters used for Teuthonista phonetic transcription N4081
Currency Symbols
20BA: Turkish Lira sign (Unicode 6.2) N4273
Miscellaneous Technical
23F4..23FA: 7 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
2700: 1 Wingdings and Webdings symbol N4022
Miscellaneous Symbols and Arrows
2B4D..2B4F, 2B5A..2B73, 2B76..2B95, 2B98..2BB9, 2BBD..2BC8, 2BCA..2BD1: 115 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
Supplement Punctuation
2E3C: Stenographic full stop N3895
2E3D..2E3E: 2 marks for Lithuanian dialectology N4070
2E3F: Capitulum N4022
2E40: Double hyphen N3983
2E41..2E42: 2 marks for Old Hungarian N3664
Cyrillic Extended-B
A698..A69B: 4 early Cyrillic letters N3974
A69C..A69D: 2 modifier letters used for Lithuanian dialectology N4070
Latin Extended-D
A794..A795: 2 letters used for Lithuanian dialectology N4070
A798..A79F: 8 letters used for Teuthonista phonetic transcription N4081
Combining Half Marks
FE27..FE2D: 7 combining half marks N4078
Old Italic
1031F: 1 letter used in a South Picene inscription N4046
Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement
1F10B..1F10C: 2 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs
1F321..1F32C, 1F336, 1F394..1F395, 1F397, 1F39C..1F39D, 1F3F1..1F3F6, 1F441, 1F53E..1F53F, 1F544..1F54A, 1F568..1F56A, 1F56D..1F56F, 1F571, 1F573, 1F577..1F578, 1F57B, 1F57D..1F57F, 1F582..1F587, 1F589..1F593, 1F597..1F5A3, 1F5A5..1F5BB, 1F5BF..1F5C1, 1F5C4..1F5D1, 1F5D4..1F5DB, 1F5F4..1F5FA: 133 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
1F641..1F642: 2 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
Transport and Map Symbols
1F6C6..1F6CA, 1F6E0: 6 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022

Linear A tablet at the Chania Archaeological Museum

{CC BY-SA 3.0 by Ursus}

New Blocks (1,430 characters)
Block Characters Documents
Combining Diacritical Marks Extended
1AB0..1ABE: 15 marks for Teuthonista phonetic transcription N4081
Myanmar Extended-B
A9E0..A9E6: 7 letters used for Shan Pali N3906
Latin Extended-E
AB30..AB5F: 48 letters used for Teuthonista phonetic transcription N4081
Coptic Epact Numbers
102E0..102FB: 28 numbers used in Coptic-Arabic manuscripts N3843
10500..10527: 40 letters used for the Elbasan script N3985
Linear A
10600..10736, 10740..10755, 10760..10767: 341 Linear A signs N3973
10860..1087F: 32 letters used for the Palmyrene script N3867
10880.. 1089E, 108A7.. 108AF: 40 letters and numbers used for the Nabataean script N3969
Old North Arabian
10A80..10A9F: 32 letters and numbers used for the Old North Arabian script N3937
10AC0..10AE6, 10AEB..10AF6: 51 letters, numbers and punctuation marks used for the Manichaean script N4029
Sinhala Archaic Numbers
111E1..111F4: 20 archaic numbers N3876
11200..11211, 11213..1123D: 61 letters, signs and punctuation marks used for the Khojki script N3978
112B0..112EA, 112F0..112F9: 69 letters signs and numbers used for the Khudawadi script N3979
11480..114C7, 114D0..114D9: 82 letters, signs and numbers used for the Tirhuta script N4035
Pau Cin Hau
11AC0..11AF8: 57 letters and other characters used for the Pau Cin Hau script N4017
16A40..16A5E, 16A60..16A6F: 43 letters, numbers and punctuation marks used for the Mro script N3589
Bassa Vah
16AD0..16AED, 16AF0..16AF5: 36 letters and other characters used for the Bassa Vah script N3941
1BC00..1BC6A, 1BC70..1BC7C, 1BC80..1BC88, 1BC90..1BC99, 1BC9C..1BC9F: 143 letters and other characters for Duployan shorthand N3895
Shorthand Format Controls
1BCA0..1BCA3: 4 shorthand format characters N3895
Ornamental Dingbats
1F650..1F67F: 48 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
Geometric Shapes Extended
1F780..1F7D4: 85 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
Supplemental Arrows-C
1F800..1F80B, 1F810..1F847, 1F850..1F859, 1F860..1F887, 1F890..1F8AD: 148 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022

Amendment 2

Amendment 2 ("Caucasian Albanian, Psalter Pahlavi, Mahajani, Grantha, Modi, Pahawh Hmong, Mende Kikakui, and other characters") is currently undergoing its final round of balloting, but at this stage no changes to character allocations or character names in Unicode can be made. This amendment includes 1,070 new characters, as detailed in the tables below. You can download code charts covering the new characters from here or here.

Medieval Celtic stone inscribed SABIN{I} FIL{I} MACCODECHET{I}

{CC BY-SA 3.0 by BabelStone}

Additions to Existing Blocks (248 characters)
Block Characters Documents
Cyrillic Supplement
0528..0529: 2 letters used for Orok N4137
052A..052D: 4 letters used for Ossetian and Komi N4199
052E..052F: 2 letters used for Northern Khanty, Eastern Khanty and Forest Nenets N4219
061C: Arabic letter mark (Unicode 6.3) N4180
Arabic Extended-A
08B2: 1 letter for Berber N4271
0980: Anji sign N4157
0C34: Letter llla N4214
16F1..16F3: 3 letters used by J. R. R. Tolkien
16F4..16F8: 5 letters used on the Franks Casket
Vedic Extensions
1CF8..1CF9: 2 svara markers for the Jaiminiya Sama Veda Archika N4134
Combining Diacritical Marks Supplement
1DF5: 1 character used in American lexicography N4279
General Punctuation
2066..2069: 4 bidirectional format characters (Unicode 6.3) N4279
Currency Symbols
20BB: Nordic mark sign N4308
20BC: Azerbaijani Manat sign N4168
Latin Extended-D
A796..A797: 2 letters used for Middle Vietnamese
A7AB..A7AC: 2 letters required for casing
A7F7: 1 letter used in Celtic inscriptions
A7B0..A7B1: 2 letters used in Americanist orthographies N4297
A7AD: 1 letter used for Alabama N4228
Myanmar Extended-B
A9E7..A9FE: 24 letters and numbers used for Tai Laing N3976
Myanmar Extended-A
AA7C..AA7D: 2 signs used for Tai Laing
AA7E..AA7F: 2 letters used for Shwe Palaung
Latin Extended-E
AB64..AB65: 2 letters used for phonetic transcription N4307
Ancient Greek Numbers
1018B..1018C, 101A0: 3 papyrological characters N4194
1107F: Number joiner N4166
111CD: Sutra mark N4269
111DA: Ekam sign N4158
1236F..12398, 12463..1246E, 12474: 55 signs and numeric signs N4277
Playing Cards
1F0BF, 1F0E0..1F0F5: 23 playing card symbols N4089
Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs
1F37D, 1F396, 1F398..1F39B, 1F39E..1F39F, 1F3C5, 1F3CB..1F3CE, 1F3D4..1F3DF, 1F3F7, 1F43F, 1F4F8, 1F4FD..1F4FE, 1F56B..1F56C, 1F570, 1F572, 1F574..1F576, 1F579, 1F57C, 1F580..1F581, 1F588, 1F594..1F596, 1F5BC..1F5BE, 1F5C2..1F5C3, 1F5D2..1F5D3, 1F5DC..1F5F3: 76 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022
Transport and Map Symbols
1F6CB..1F6CF, 1F6E1..1F6EC, 1F6F0..16F3: 21 wingdings and webdings symbols N4022

Sanskrit Dhāraṇī in Chinese and Siddham scripts from Yarkhoto

IDP: Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften: SHT 7175

New Blocks (822 characters)
Block Characters Documents
Old Permic
10350..1037A: 43 letters used for the Old Permic script N4263
Caucasian Albanian
10530..10563, 1056F: 53 letters and marks used for the Caucasian Albanian script N4131
Psalter Pahlavi
10B80..10B91, 10B99..10B9C, 10BA9..10BAF: 29 letters, marks and numbers used for the Psalter Pahlavi script N4040
11150..11176: 39 letters and signs used for the Mahajani script N4126
11301..11303, 11305..1130C, 1130F..11310, 11313..11328, 1132A..11330, 11332..11333, 11335..11339, 1133C..11344, 11347..11348, 1134B..1134D, 11357, 1135D..11363, 11366..1136C, 11370..11374: 83 letters, numbers and signs used for the Grantha script N4135
11580..115B5, 115B8..115C9: 72 letters, signs and marks used for the Siddham script N4294
11600..11644, 11650..11659: 79 letters, signs and numbers used for the Modi script N4034
Warang Citi
118A0..118F2, 118FF: 84 letters and numbers used for the Warang Citi script N4259
Pahawh Hmong
16B00..16B45, 16B50..16B59, 16B5B..16B61, 16B63..16B77, 16B7D..16B8F: 127 letters and signs used for the Pahawh Hmong script N4175
Mende Kikakui
1E800..1E8C4, 1E8C7..1E8D6: 213 syllables and numbers used for the Mende Kikakui script N4167

On beyond 7.0

A new (4th) edition of ISO/IEC 10646 will be published next year, and Amendment 1 to this new edition is already in progress. ISO/IEC 10646:2014 (draft code charts) will include Hatran, Old Hungarian (assuming that the Hungarian national body's ballot response is positive), Sharada, Multani, Ahom, Early Dynastic Cuneiform, Anatolian Hieroglyphs, and Sutton Signwriting, as well as 5,762 Han ideographs in a new CJK-E block. Amendment 1 (draft code charts) currently adds Nüshu (Nushu) and Tamil supplement, but more scripts may be added to it as it progresses. The character repertoire, code point allocations, and character names are not yet fixed, and the draft code charts linked to above should be treated with caution.

For the first time, in what I think is a very good move, the Unicode Consortium has publicized the ISO ballots in advance of announcing a beta version of Unicode (at which point it is too late to make changes to character allocation and character names), and requested feedback from the public on the proposed repertoires. See PRI #256 for ISO/IEC 10646:2014 and PRI #255 for ISO/IEC 10646:2014 Amd.1. New scripts and characters added to ISO/IEC 10646:2014 and its amendments will feed into Unicode 7.1 and 7.2 (these are probable version numbers, but are currently unconfirmed) during the next two or three years.

For those of you who have been following the yo-yoing progress of the middle dot letter used for Sinological transcription and 'Phags-pa transliteration (originally proposed for encoding by myself in January 2009, and subsequently put on and then taken off virtually every ballot since then), an agreement was finally reached at the last WG2 meeting in Vilnius during the summer of this year to encode the character at U+A78F under the compromise name of LATIN LETTER SINOLOGICAL DOT, and I hope to see it encoded in the version of Unicode corresponding to ISO/IEC 10646:2014 Amd.1 (it's not currently on Amd.1, but maybe it will get added there).

Tangut is a major historic script that I know that many people want to see encoded in Unicode, and as the main author of a series of proposals to encode Tangut characters and Tangut components I am top this list. However, although the first proposal to encode Tangut characters (by Richard Cook) was made in 2008, it has proved very hard to reach an agreement on character repertoire, and Tangut encoding has floundered. A conference on encoding Tangut, supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, will be held in Beijing in December of this year (I will be there), and if all goes well it is possible that Tangut could be put on the ballot for ISO/IEC 10646:2014 Amd. 2, and find its way on into Unicode 7.2 or 8.0.

Fonts Supporting Unicode 7.0



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