5.0329 Multilingual Text Processing (1/50)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 19 Sep 1991 17:28:09 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0329. Thursday, 19 Sep 1991.
Multilingual Text Processing

Date: Tue, 17 Sep 91 18:37:33 CDT
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: many languages; hostile PCs

In answer to a recent query about multilingual texts, let me just
state up front that I don't know of any platform, other than a
proprietary one by Xerox, that fully integrates languages as diverse
as, say, Hebrew or Arabic, Chinese, English, etc. The Mac has a tool
called a Script Manager, which functions as an internationalized tool
for script display. Trouble is that there just isn't any high-power
academic software for the Mac of the NotaBene sort.

Regarding MS-DOS software, I don't think I can say it any better than
Henry Rogers did:

DOS solutions to multilanguage texts are almost invariably
application- and hardware-specific. That is, a given application
may support a specific list of alternative languages on a limited
subset of hardware.

This means that if you can get multilingual software for the PC, the
files produced won't be compatible with anything else, and the program
itself will be heavily dependent on the hardware you have installed.
PC programmers have a multitude of display standards, and you have to
write separate code modules for each of the possible standards. It's
a mess, especially when it comes to drawing anything but ROM-encoded
ASCII codes. And of course there are memory restrictions. Unless the
program knows about various memory-extending protocols (all kludges),
you are hemmed into 640k.

What you need is an OS that supports an object-oriented display
interface that knows that languages kern, wrap, and overstrike in
markedly different ways. You also need an OS that was developed in an
environment where 256k wasn't felt to be a helluva lot of memory, and
where the display was set up with an eye towards unitary standards
across a large range of hardware.

Sorry, but nothing of this sort exists. The NeXT is moving in this
direction. But so far they have not announced any explicit plans.
The Mac does some of what we need, but I couldn't recommend doing
business with Apple.

You'll have to live either with a dedicated multilingual
word-processor (like Multilingual Scholar for the PC), or with
font-manipulation using a general utility like Word for the Mac, or
worse yet WordPerfect for the PC (I've heard of add-ons that help
WordPerfect understand that we don't all write in one language at a
time, but have not tried any out). NotaBene tries hard, but how much
can you really do on a PC-type machine (with a segmented architecture,
and absurd memory limitations)?