This website presents the ongoing results of international discussions occurring among Ugaritologists in preparation for a formal proposal to the Unicode Consortium for the computer encoding of Ugaritic cuneiform.

You may join the Ugaritic for Unicode email list discussion by emailing the list manager.

In order to see the latest version of the proposal you must use at least version 5.0 of Microsoft Internet Explorer for Macintosh or version 5.5 for Windows. Both are downloadable for free from Microsoft. (This requirement is due to the fact that we are posting the cuneiform sign database using XML with XSL style sheets, and, right now, only Internet Explorer supports this, the future of the web.)

We have posted a page illustrating some of the issues surrounding Ugaritic numerics.

Unicode is fast becoming THE single encoding for the representation of text on computers. In a single encoding it encompasses almost all of the world’s living languages and is actively pursuing the addition of those left unencoded and of the “dead” languages of the world.

Unicode is the textual foundation for Windows, Macintosh, Java, XML, etc. In simple terms, a Unicode encoding assigns a unique number, name, and representative glyph to each distinct “character” in a given script system. It also associates rules (such as ligature formation) to the characters as an aid in the correct rendering and processing of text on computers.]

A successful computer encoding proposal requires cross pollination from at least three disciplines (infrequently joined in a single person) - computer science, linguistics, and script system expertise.

Ugaritologists typically have expertise in linguistics and the Ugaritic script system, while Unicode experts typically know linguistics and computer science (along with having knowledge of some specific, possibly un-related script systems). The two groups need to collaborate in order to come up with a sound computer encoding for Ugaritic, and the email list is where this is taking place.

Those involved in such matters do not foresee this process as being very complicated or time consuming. Ugaritic, unlike Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform, is a well-defined alphabetic script system with a handful of characters. But all is not completely straightforward; there are some issues that require discussion.

For example:

* What order should we adopt for the Ugaritic encoding? - strict Ugaritic native abecedary order, modified Ugaritic native abecedary order (with the alefs together), or one of the other orders adopted by the grammars and dictionaries? [Keep in mind that the order adopted in the encoding has nothing to do with the collation (sorting) order used in computer programs - it can be viewed as purely a cultural issue.]

* What names will we apply to the characters? - reconstructed native Ugaritic names, a combination of Hebrew and Arabic names, Arabic names, semi-phonemic names? [The names are merely for human-meaningful, non-numerical, reference to the corresponding Unicode characters, and they take the form of something like “UGARITIC CUNEIFORM GHAIN”.]

* What ancillary “characters “ and markings will be encoded? - word dividers, line rules, column rules, cases, editor marks, scribal corrections, overwriting, strikethroughs, ligatures, etc.? [This may prove to be a controversial topic.]

* What paleographic style will we chose for the representative glyphs? [The choice of glyphic style has no bearing on the actual fonts used for rendering Ugaritic cuneiform on computers - font selection is at least one layer of abstraction above the encoding level. The choice of glyphs is merely intended to associate an “abstract” graphic image with a character slot. In other words, the representative glyphs are not intended to convey any paleographic information at all.]

Most Ugaritologists have been content to work and publish in transliteration for decades. But an international standard encoding for Ugaritic will open up new avenues for research, instruction, and publishing, and not just for those involved in computer-assisted research in ancient languages.