Friday, September 24, 2004
The Pango (officially , meaning "all languages" in a combination of Greek and Japanese) project has been building software support for displaying and printing in every one of the writing systems of the world in modern use, about 30 in number (depending on how you count). The word from the developers is that Sinhala, Tibetan, and Syriac support have been finished. They will be included in the December 15 release, Pango 1.8, and will make their way into the various distributions in 2005 as part of the GTK library and applications using it.
Pango was created as part of the GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, a Free equivalent of Adobe Photoshop. There is a Pango-enabled version of Mozilla available, and Pango is being integrated into Open Office. We are still waiting for Mongolian, Khmer (Cambodian), and a few other writing systems.
If you don't speak Tibetan, Syriac, or Sinhalese (or other languages written in the same alphabets, such as Pali, the Buddhist language written in Sinhala in Sri Lanka), do you care about this? Maybe not, but if you don't care about the success of others, why would you be reading this blog?
The reason to care about Sinhalese support is the Sarvodaya Movement, a Gandhian organization which has created a successful development program for the villages of Sri Lanka over the last 50 years. The 15,000+ member villages have their own local councils, have built schools and clinics, and have their own banking system.
An even more remarkable achievement is the breaking down of the local caste system in Sri Lanka without provoking violent opposition. One reason for this is that Sarvodaya regularly organizes meditation meetings of Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims, where the topics of the meditation include feeling joy at the successes of others (mudita in Pali).
Similarly, the Tibetan alphabet supports another of the great initiatives in peace and sustainable development, led by the Dalai Lama, while Syriac is the language of one of the oldest Christian churches.
You can find PDFs showing these alphabets, and the others defined in Unicode, on the Unicode Web page for Code Charts. If you are interested, you can download Tibetan Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan (not in Unicode, however) from the Asian Classics Input Project. Similarly, there are CD-ROMS and downloadable versions of the Pali Buddhist scriptures in Sinhala, Thai, Khmer (Cambodian), Burmese (Myanmar), Devanagari, and Latin scripts. The CSCD (Chattha Sangayana CD-ROM), which is available for free redistribution, includes the ability to view the text in Devanagari, Burmese, and Latin. There is a version in Sinhala script on the Web. Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese translations are also available. A similar project for Syriac Christian scriptures and other literature is underway at the Syriac Digital Library.
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