SIL International Media Release

New Resources for Linguists, Software Developers, and Policy Makers

DALLAS, TX (April 19, 2004) SIL International's Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) is pleased to announce the immediate availability of a new collection of resources on their Computers & Writing Systems website. These resources have been developed through a cooperative project with UNESCO, begun in 2003, as part of UNESCO's Initiative B@bel.

The collection can be found at http://scripts.sil.org/babel/ and includes:

These resources are designed to bridge the Digital Divide—barriers to communication because many of the world's diverse languages cannot yet be represented on computers. An SIL-produced software tool known as Graphite is a program designed to enable computers to display complex non-Roman scripts. "Almost everyday we receive requests for tools to manage minority languages on the computer, so we are very excited to talk with SIL about their Graphite system," stated Davide Storti, UNESCO Information Society Division member.

The agreement between SIL and UNESCO contains seven objectives. These include plans for SIL to continue to develop ways to enable software applications to input and display complex script data and will provide basic documentation of Graphite to help software developers incorporate Graphite into other software. SIL has also committed to modify a web browser to enable it to display content in complex scripts.

In January 2003, representatives from UNESCO and SIL initiated plans for a joint project to promote multilingualism on the web during meetings held at SIL's International Linguistics Center in Dallas. "It's really great to see the enthusiasm of the SIL team here. With partners like you, we can go a long way toward achieving these goals," said Paul G. C. Hector, UNESCO Information Society Division member.

"Both SIL and UNESCO have a common desire: to see minority language groups have the ability to express their written language using commonly available computer technology. This is best done through common inclusive standards and policies. We in the Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) hope that what we have done on this project will enable us to move closer to that common goal," said Dennis Drescher, Director of the NRSI.

"We were encouraged to learn last year of UNESCO's desire to promote multilingualism in cyberspace. Their concern overlaps a great deal with SIL's efforts to facilitate the use of non-Roman and complex scripts in linguistic study, literacy, translation, and publishing," says, Dr. Paul S. Frank, Vice President for Academic Affairs for SIL. "UNESCO and SIL share a common concern in finding technical solutions for hundreds of minority languages that have complex writing systems and, thus, are left out of the cyber-connected world," he stated.

One of the key documents, The Guidelines for Writing Systems Support, is a guide to the planning and development of writing system implementations. It introduces a model for writing system implementations, outlines the development process, and highlights keys to project success. These Guidelines are written primarily for policy makers and professionals, but includes introductory technical material in later sections. This covers important topics regarding encoding, keyboarding, and rendering. It gives specific guidance on working with Unicode, including how to propose new characters for inclusion in the Unicode Standard.

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