31 December 2010

New Characters

In a recent post (here), I commented on new words that have been created in Taiwan, by means of combining existing characters. A less common way of coining new words is to invent new characters. The character 夯 fits into this category, though it may have been around for ten years or so. Here it is as the fourth characters in an advertisement for the Floral Exhibition currently on in Taipei.It seems to be pronounced hāng and it means 'brilliant' or 'hot'.

Here it is again, on the sign for a bar. In both cases, its highly expressive quality is highlighted by it being shown in red.

One question I have in cases like this is how new characters would be shown in Unicode, which aims to include every character one might need in all languages. What would they do about newly-invented characters? In this case, 夯 has been around long enough that it is included in the Unicode set of characters (which is why I am able to show it in my text). But let us now look at another character creation, this one on the sign for a Taiwanese bookshop. The four large characters at the bottom say 'Taiwan's bookshop', but the third of these, pronounced 'e' and equivalent in meaning to the possessive 的 in Mandarin, is a non-standard character. As far as I can see, it does not exist in Unicode. So how would it be added? Is there a space for extra characters? And even if there is, it would be out of sequence. Here's where it should belong, immediately before the character shown in blue (location: hex 5168), but there isn't space for it. So how are newly created characters dealt with in Unicode?