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Re: Digression: little/big endian numbers LTR/RTL

From: John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>
Date: Mon, 5 May 2008 11:47:08 -0400
To: CE Whitehead <cewcathar@hotmail.com>
Cc: www-international@w3.org, Najib Tounsi <ntounsi@emi.ac.ma>
Message-ID: <20080505154708.GK28125@mercury.ccil.org>

> Hope this does not confuse the issue; I never even realized that
> classical Arabic numbers such as the telephone number could be written
> RTL as Naajib says they are, because I learned in Arabic to write my
> numbers LTR (what little Arabic I learned).

Unfortunately you cannot tell by looking at a digit sequence like "12345"
whether 1 was written first and then LTR, or 5 was written first and
then RTL.  There is no particular advantage to one approach over the
other, and if your language reads "12345" as "five and forty and three
hundred and two-and-ten thousand" and you normally write RTL anyway,
then writing 5 first seems quite sensible.

Doubly unfortunately, what makes no difference on the page makes a
fundamental difference in the computer.  Right now, Unicode always
places the most-significant digit first in a text stream (the 1 in the
example above); if it has to handle Classical Arabic (or Elvish) numbers,
that won't work so well.  (Elvish numbers are written LTR with the least
significant digit first, as 54321.)

John Cowan        http://www.ccil.org/~cowan          cowan@ccil.org
Please leave your values                Check your assumptions.  In fact,
   at the front desk.                      check your assumptions at the door.
     --sign in Paris hotel                   --Cordelia Vorkosigan
Received on Monday, 5 May 2008 15:47:42 UTC

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