Unicode issues

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Some issues (potential and otherwise) with Unicode support.

[edit] Combining vs. pre-combined characters

When a character has an accent, sometimes there is more than one way of representing it, using either pre-combined or combining characters. These look different in UTF-8, but the same to the user.


UTF-8 0xC3 0xA0 vs. 0x61 0xCC 0x81
      á         vs.      á 
      U+00E1    vs. U+0061 U+0301

The best thing to do is probably standardise on one variant for analysis/generation, and then normalise all input coming into the analyser using a transliterator or something similar.

[edit] Unicode normalisation

Unicode defines normalisation algorithms to transform various semantically equivalent strings to a single form.

NFD (Normalisation Form Canonical Decomposition)

The strings are decomposed and characters are reordered.

Here's an example with 4 strings that are equivalent 'ẹ́', 'ẹ́', 'ẹ́' and 'ẹ́'. If they are not the same at your end you are missing a good font or the software you use does not support that part of Unicode.

When normalised to NFD all those 4 strings have the same form and can be used as they are meant to, with the same meaning.

UTF-8 0x65 0xCC 0x81 0xCC 0xA3 -> 0x65 0xCC 0xA3 0xCC 0x81
      ẹ́                        -> ẹ́
      U+0065 U+0301 U+0323     -> U+0065 U+0323 U+0301
UTF-8 0xC3 0xA9 0xCC 0xA3      -> 0x65 0xCC 0xA3 0xCC 0x81
      ẹ́                        -> ẹ́
      U+00E9 U+0323            -> U+0065 U+0323 U+0301
UTF-8 0xE1 0xBA 0xB9 0xCC 0x81 -> 0x65 0xCC 0xA3 0xCC 0x81
      ẹ́                        -> ẹ́
      U+1EB9 U+0301            -> U+0065 U+0323 U+0301
NFC (Normalisation Form Canonical Composition)

The strings are decomposed, characters are reordered and are composed

With the same example, all strings are normalised to a different form.

UTF-8 0x65 0xCC 0xA3 0xCC 0x81 -> 0xE1 0xBA 0xB9 0xCC 0x81
      ẹ́                        -> ẹ́
      U+0065 U+0323 U+0301     -> U+1EB9 U+0301
UTF-8 0x65 0xCC 0x81 0xCC 0xA3 -> 0xE1 0xBA 0xB9 0xCC 0x81
      ẹ́                        -> ẹ́
      U+0065 U+0301 U+0323     -> U+1EB9 U+0301
UTF-8 0xC3 0xA9 0xCC 0xA3      -> 0xE1 0xBA 0xB9 0xCC 0x81
      ẹ́                        -> ẹ́
      U+00E9 U+0323            -> U+1EB9 U+0301

[edit] Zero-width non-joiner (ZWNJ)

[edit] See also

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