David Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The IPA character [a] is different from the Roman character "a".
> The Unicode character for both, though, is identical. This could
> lead to big problems--especially if this is changed (which it ought
> to be) in the future.

Mark J. Reed, On 28/01/2010 12:37:
> Huh??? The IPA symbol <a> is in no way different from <a>.  Unicode
> encodes symbols, not semantics.  The various places that identical
> symbols show up twice is solely due to backward-compatibility issues
> with pre-Unocode text.  All of the IPA symbols that are identical with
> Latin letters are actually identical with them.  What do you gain by
> treating them distinctly?

Garth Wallace, On 28/01/2010 19:06:
> How are they not the same character? They look identical. Only the
> context is different, but if you distinguish characters by just
> context then you'd have to have separate characters for English <a>,
> French <a>, Spanish <a>, Polish <a>...

David Peterson, On 28/01/2010 20:32:
> I thought this was the whole point of Unicode. Notice that there's
> little difference between the Roman "a" and the Cyrillic "a", yet
> the Cyrillic "a" gets its own codepoint. Just how different does
> "different" have to be?
> Another problem (aside from the caps) is italicization. Not all
> characters italicize the same way. Most IPA characters don't.
> Also notice that if you italicize "a" in many fonts you get the
> closed variant, which is an entirely different character in IPA.

Mark and Garth are right about Unicode characters, of course, but I agree with David that IPA <a> and roman <a> are not the same -- e.g. IPA <a> must be double-decker and roman <a> needn't be. More generally, I would maintain that characters are defined relative to a particular graphological system (by which I mean both scripts and systems like IPA), and that the (system-specific) definition includes both form (e.g. alloglyphic range) and meaning. I wish Unicode had adopted a system in which character codes consisted of a first part that identifies the graphological system and a second part that identifies the character within that system. I think such a scheme would have been far freer from controversies, disputes, analytical solecisms, etc., much more straightforwardly extensible, much less cumbersome, and so on.