Tuesday 18 January 2022

Unicode Trivia U+058D

Block: U+0500..058F "Armenian"

The Armenian alphabet was devised in about 405 CE by Mesrop Maštoc' to give Armenians access to Christian texts. It was probably developed from the Greek alphabet with influences from Syriac and possibly Ge'ez scripts. It has uppercase and lowercase letterforms:

Armenian is written with quite distinctive punctuation. See Section 7.6 of the Unicode Core Specification.

Before Unicode, Armenian script was encoded in one of a set of ASCII-like character encodings called ArmSCII. In all three main variants of ArmSCII, there is a slot for the Armenian eternity symbol. The sign comes in two versions; right- and left-facing:

Right- and left-facing Armenian eternity signs [source]

According to Michael Everson:

The Armenian Eternity Sign is the ancient national symbol of Armenia. Its glyph may have either a clockwise or an anti-clockwise orientation, which is composed with curves running from the centre of the symbol. Typically, the sign has eight such curves, a number which symbolizes revival, rebirth, and recurrence. 

The sign is known to be distinguished with both right and left rotations, which represent (more or less) activity and passivity, similarly to the svаsti sign used in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Personally, I find the "left- and right-facing" nomenclature somewhat confusing, but it made it into the Unicode standard:



The latter codepoint has an annotation saying it "maps to AST 34.005:1997" which is ArmSCII-7.

The fact that two codepoints were to be added to Unicode (even though only one existed in ArmSCII) was the topic of some debate within the Unicode committee around 2010, along with where to actually place the two codepoints: either the "Armenian" block (the winner!) or "Miscellaneous Pictographic Symbols".

A similar discussion was had about the placement of the Armenian currency sign, dram (U+058F). It could have been placed in the "Currency Symbols" block, but it was positioned at the end of the "Armenian" block because it is "similar to the Armenian letter D" (section 7.1.1).

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