Sunday, 22 April 2018

Computer Science Internationalization - Ideographic Description Characters

I recently created a new Chinese character. This is the very first time I have done so. I created the character to write on a farewell card.

Firstly some background. About two years ago I gave a printout to a colleague, Katherine Hollingsworth, of the Chinese character 好 which means good. I explained how this character has two components, the left part meaning woman and the right part meaning child. Woman 女 + child 子 is something good, hence the meaning good. Katherine, at this time had one child.

Fast forward two years and Katherine is leaving us. As is traditional, there was a farewell card for us to write our best wishes. That is when I had the idea of creating a new Chinese character. Katherine now has two children. The character I created was ⿰好子 which is a woman with two children. I handwrote this character onto the card. Chinese characters are written into a square which is what I did when handwriting the combination of 好 and 子.

Now to the Computer Science part. In Unicode there are twelve Ideographic Description Characters: ⿰ ⿱ ⿲ ⿳ ⿴ ⿵ ⿶ ⿷ ⿸ ⿹ ⿺ ⿻, U+2FF0➔2FFB. These can be used to construct new characters from combinations of existing characters and/or components. They represent the topological relationship between the components. ⿰ is used to represent a character with two components, a left part and a right part. The ideographic description sequence for my new character is thus ⿰好子. I have given this character the name 双好 which means double good😀

I told my Chinese project students about my new Chinese character. One of the students, 王国旭 Wang Guoxu, suggested an additional way of constructing the character using a left part, a middle part and a right part. The sequence for his suggestion is ⿲子女子. I really like this suggestion as we now have a woman surrounded by her two children.

Update: I have now devised a second new Chinese character. It is related to the above character and consists of four, side by side components. The ideographic description sequence is: ⿰⿰子男⿰女子. I will leave it to you, the reader, to determine what it represents.

Update 2: Another arrangement of the 双好 components is to have the woman above the children. The ideographic description sequence is: ⿱女⿰子子. See for a calligraphic version of this arrangement.