In responding to a request to explain the change of MARC-8 character B0
(ayn) from U+02BF to U+02BB, Jackie Radebaugh wrote

> The MARC character B0 is used to represent both weak aspiration
> (romanized Chinese according to the Wade-Giles system) and the voiced
> pharyngeal fricative (romanized Arabic or Hebrew).  In the Unicode
> standard, U+02BD represents "weak aspiration" and U+02BF represents
> "voiced pharyngeal fricative."  U+02BB was mapped to B0 because its
> dual function (as an alternate for the transliterated representation
> of the ain or for indication of weak aspiration) reflects the multiple
> uses of the MARC B0 character.

It seems to me that, if a similar reasoning were to be applied to the
mapping of MARC-8 character AE (alif), one should map alif to U+02C0 (or
possibly U+02BC), and not U+02BE.  The alif character is used for the
following representations:

transliteration of Arabic hamzah (glottal stop)
transliteration of glottal stops in many languages (such as Burmese)
substitute for an apostrophe in romanized Japanese and Korean
  between "n" and "g" when "n" ends one syllable and "g" begins
  the next

The choices in Unicode are the following:
  glottal stop, glottalization, ejective; elision
  spacing clone of Greek smooth breathing mark
  this is the preferred character for apostrophe
  transliteration of Arabic hamzah (glottal stop)
  ejective or glottalized
  typographical alternate for 02BC or 02BE

Although one might be able to stretch "transliteration of Arabic hamzah" to
include other Semitic languages, using it for glottal stops in a language as
unrelated as Burmese seems wrong, especially when U+02BC is provided for
exactly that purpose.  The use of alif as a separator also does not
correspond to U+02BE, but it does correspond to "preferred character for
apostrophe" of U+02BC.  Since U+02C0 covers *all* these possibilities, this
would seem to be the preferred mapping (although mapping to U+02BC would
make a nice correspondence to the MARC-8 B0 = U+02BB mapping; such a mapping
does not seem out of place, since the Arabic hamzah is only a specific
glottal stop, which is included under U+02BC).

Should any of these considerations cause a change in the mapping of alif to
a Unicode character?


Rev. Richard A. Lammert           e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Technical Services Librarian      mail:  6600 N. Clinton St.
Walther Library                          Fort Wayne, IN  46825-4996
Concordia Theological Seminary    phone: 260-452-3148