The Nature of Linguistic Data and the Requirements of a Computing Environment for Linguistic Research
Online Appendix: Multilingual Computing
Multilingual Computing and the Problem of Character Encoding and Rendering
The first of the six requirements is:
The data are multilingual, so the computing environment must be able to keep track of what language each datum is in, and then display and process it accordingly.
This appendix first gives pointers to some general resources on this topic, then gives resources relating to the fundamental problem of character encoding and rendering.
About multilingual computing in general:
Resources for software developers:
On developing a truly multilingual World Wide Web:
Fundamental to the problem of multilingual computing is the problem of character encoding and rendering. Below is a glossary of key terms discussed in this chapter of the book; basic definitions are supplemented with pointers to further information resources. (Adobe's Type Technology Forum has a glossary of about 30 terms; Apple Computer's Inside Macintosh: Text contains a richer glossary of over 300 terms.)
American Standard Code for Information Interchange. A standard character set that maps character codes 0 through 127 onto control functions, punctuation marks, digits, upper case letters, lower case letters, and other symbols.
The minimal unit of encoding for text files. A character typically corresponds to a single graphic sign of a writing system, like a letter of the alphabet or a punctuation mark.
Some sources that discuss concepts and terminology:
These sources describe the contents of particular character sets:
A small mark (such as an accent mark) added above, below, before, or after a base character to modify its pronunciation or significance.
The process of converting a stream of encoded characters (that is, character codes) to their correct graphic appearance on a terminal or printer.
The seminal work on encoding versus rendering is:
A character set which attempts to include every character from all the major writing systems of the world. It uses two bytes (16 bits) to encode each character. In its current version (2.0), the Unicode standard contains 38,885 distinct coded characters from 25 scripts (including the International Phonetic Alphabet).
A subcomponent of the Macintosh operating system (version 7.1 and later) which gives programs access to script interface systems for multiple non-Roman writing systems.
Some relevant publications:
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Summary | Multilingual Computing | Text Encoding | Databases
This page is part of an online appendix for the book Using Computers in Linguistics: A Practical Guide, edited by John M. Lawler and Helen Aristar Dry (Routledge, 1998).
Last modified: January 7, 2000