Preservation and Access: Research and Development

Period of Performance

4/1/2017 - 9/30/2020

Funding Totals (outright + matching)

$274,840.00 (approved)
$274,840.00 (awarded)

Universal Scripts Project

FAIN: PR-253360-17

University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA 94704-5940)
Deborah Winthrop Anderson (Project Director: June 2016 to March 2022)

The preparation of nine scripts—four modern and five historical—for inclusion in the international Unicode standard, to aid research using materials in historical scripts and promote communication in minority language communities.

Although computer and mobile users in many parts of the world can now communicate in hundreds of languages by using their own native writing system, there are still linguistic minority groups, and users of historical writing systems, who cannot. This is because the letters and symbols of these scripts are not yet part of the international character encoding standard, known as Unicode. More than one hundred and fifty eligible scripts are not yet included in Unicode, which directly affects humanities research, the creation of the global digital repository of humankind's literary and cultural heritage and, for users of modern scripts, basic communication. This project will fund proposals for four modern and five historical scripts for inclusion in the standard, and pave the way for electronic communication in (and about) scripts by scholars and the use. The project will also develop and make available fonts for the non-Latin scripts of ancient Italy, in order to aid scholars.

Media Coverage

Texting in Ancient Mayan Hieroglyphs (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Erica Machulak
Publication: Humanities
Date: 1/2/2018
Abstract: Description of the work to get Mayan Hieroglyphs into the international standard Unicode, being done through the NEH-funded Universal Scripts Project.

Soon You May Be Able to Text with 2,000 Egyptian Hieroglyphs (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Sarah E. Bond
Publication: Hypoallergic
Date: 5/6/2018
Abstract: An article about ongoing work to add over 2,000 more Egyptian Hieroglyphs to the international standard Unicode, and why this is important. Work is done through the NEH-supported Universal Scripts Project and the umbrella project (SEI).

“La cruzada de estos españoles para que la lengua ibérica llegue a tu ordenador” (Media Coverage)
Author(s): José Manuel Blanco
Publication: Xataka
Date: 6/30/2019
Abstract: This article (in Spanish) discusses the work to get Palaeohispanic scripts into Unicode.

“Wasapea como un egipcio: así llegarán los jeroglíficos a tu teléfono móvil” (Media Coverage)
Publication: El Mundo
Date: 8/20/2018
Abstract: This article (in Spanish) discusses work to get Egyptian Hieroglyphs into Unicode and onto mobile devices.

“The Economist Explains: The great emoji debate” (Media Coverage)
Author(s): G.F.
Publication: The Economist
Date: 12/18/2017
Abstract: This article discusses the impact of getting emoji into the Unicode Standard versus work on getting lesser-used scripts into Unicode.

“How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets” (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Michael Erard
Publication: New York Times
Date: 10/18/2017
Abstract: This article discusses the work of getting emoji into Unicode, and how it affects work to get various lesser-used scripts into Unicode.

Associated Products

Missing Scripts: Script Encoding Initiative (Film/TV/Video Broadcast or Recording)
Title: Missing Scripts: Script Encoding Initiative
Writer: Deborah Anderson
Director: Deborah Anderson
Producer: Deborah Anderson
Abstract: This presentation will discuss the work of the Script Encoding Initiative project at UC Berkeley in helping to get missing scripts into the Unicode Standard. It will also provide background on Unicode and the script approval process, and highlight why the project is important.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: YouTube video from Alphabetica one-day symposium in West Den Hag, Netherlands, in November 2019.
Access Model: Open access (YouTube)
Format: Web

The World’s Writing Systems (poster) (Course or Curricular Material)
Title: The World’s Writing Systems (poster)
Author: ANRT
Author: Hochschule Mainz
Author: Script Encoding Initiative (Universal Scripts Project)
Abstract: This large poster shows the scripts of the world, using colors to designate living and historical scripts (with dates and general geographical location), as well as whether they are encoded in Unicode or not. One glyph is shown for each of the world's writing systems.
Year: 2019
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: The webpage shows the poster.
Audience: General Public