Friday, May 8, 2009

The Deseret Alphabet Hits the Big Time (Kind Of)!

I was going to blather on a bit about pronunciation issues, since that’s cropped up in my life this past week, but I have something better to talk about instead.  

The Deseret Alphabet has been in Unicode since version 3.1 of the standard (March 2001), so it’s hardly new there.  And it’s been included in Apple’s Apple Symbols font since Mac OS X 10.3 (October 2003), so it’s hardly new there, either.  

Today, the Deseret Alphabet took the next big step forward.  Associated with Unicode is a second project, the Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR).  A locale in computer parlance is a linking of a place with a language, and it refers to all the standard names for things or standard ways of doing things in that place/language combination.  Locales make it possible for me to specify my place (Salt Lake City) and language (English), and, armed with that information, my computer can set the default names for the months and days of the weeks, the default format to use for dates and times, the default currency, the default units of measurements, and so on.  Of course, I can override these if I choose, but the goal is to make it as unnecessary as possible.  

Version 1.6 was under development a year or so ago, and I spent a couple of evenings madly typing in Deseret Alphabet (and Shavian) data to make Deseret and Shavian locales possible.  Unfortunately, the rules for inclusion in CLDR 1.6 meant that Deseret and Shavian didn’t make it, because I was the only one who had vetted the data.  The rules were relaxed somewhat for version 1.7, however, and with its release today, the Deseret Alphabet can now be used in conjunction with locale information to provide standard information for the computer to use in all kinds of interesting places.  

Now, I don’t know when CLDR 1.7 will start showing up in shipping projects (e.g., Mac OS X Snow Leopard).  It is, however, entirely probable that within a year software you and I and other normal people use will actually be able to use the Deseret Alphabet automatically for things like dates and times.

(I am a normal person, aren’t I?)