W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-math@w3.org > November 2004

Re: MathML in Arabic

From: Dr. Fayez Alhargan <alhargan@kacst.edu.sa>
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 2004 02:14:29 +0300
Message-Id: <4186C355.00003E.02072@VILLA11-213>
To: <www-math@w3.org>
With reference to:
One area where MathML is lacking is a specification of how it should
be used in right-to-left languages, particularly Arabic.
This issue came up during the work on MathML 2.0, and resulted in the
addition of section 3.1.5.  This section says that the Unicode
bidirectional algorithm should be followed for the text within token
elements, but that MathML 2.0 doesn't address the general question of
right-to-left layout.  The reason for that was simply that, the Math
Working Group was unable to find enough examples and/or experts in the
time available to be confident an attempt to describe how MathML
should work in right-to-left text would get it right.
To get things started, I invite anyone with expert knowledge of math
in Arabic or other right-to-left languages to post a brief
introductory message.  Pointers to examples, articles, projects or
other useful background information would be especially welcome.  If
you aren't yourself an expert, but know someone who is, please draw
their attention to this discussion.

The  major mistake designer of Arabic  based algorithms make is 
the assumption that Arabic language is bidirectional,   this is nonsense, 
and has made the handling of Arabic typesetting much more complicated.
Arabic is the mirror image of English, the algorithm for  typesetting Arabic

is simply the same as that for English with  Left-to-Right motion changed 
to Right-to-Left motion with no bidirectional motion.
Many argue that numbers and some characters  in Arabic are written
this is completely wrong. My hope is this misconception is removed from the
Unicode standard or at least the bidirectional motion made optional and the
complete Right-to-Left motion became the standard default for Arabic.
We are at KACST have developed a set of  Arabic mathematical symbols in
TrueType font, please see attached .pdf file. Note many of the symbols are
mirror image of the symbols used in English.
In conclusion  as a general rule for Arabic use:
1-  Right-to-Left  with no bidirectional motion. 
2-  Mirror image the mathematical symbols. 
3-  Use the Greek letters  as is.
4-  Replace the Latin/Greek letters  with Arabic letters of appropriate
shape (e.g. bold, italics), an optional table can be designed to map the
letters from English  to Arabic.

Prof.  Fayez Alhargan

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Received on Wednesday, 3 November 2004 08:29:20 UTC

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