Greek Unicode duplicated vowels

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The Problem

The Greek basic Unicode range (0370-03FF) originally encoded the characters required for modern Greek: the 24-letter alphabet, a couple of numerical symbols, and vowels with tonos and/or diaeresis (in addition to Coptic and a few other symbols). When the Greek extended range (1F00-1FFF) was added to handle Polytonic Greek (for both Classical and katherevousa Greek), this basically involved the addition of accented vowels, plus breathing marks, subscript iotas, etc.

The Characters

For some reason, perhaps because of an oversight, or perhaps because the editors thought that there was some essential difference between tonos and oxia (acute), which there is not. Sixteen characters in the Greek basic set were duplicated in Greek extended:

Unicode Beta Code Basic codepoint extended codepoint
ά A/ 03AC 1F71
έ E/ 03AD 1F73
ή H/ 03AE 1F75
ί I/ 03AF 1F77
ό O/ 03CC 1F79
ύ U/ 03CD 1F7B
ώ W/ 03CE 1F7D
Ά */A 0386 1FBB
Έ */E 0388 1FC9
Ή */H 0389 1FCB
Ί */I 038A 1FDB
Ό */O 038C 1FF9
Ύ */U 038E 1FEB
Ώ */W 038F 1FFB
ΐ I/+ 0390 1FD3
ΰ U/+ 03B0 1FE3

There is no semantic difference between, for example, ά and ά (both alpha-oxia), so in most cases you don't need to worry about this. Your Greek Keyboards (Unicode) will make a decision and input one or the other. A search engine should be able to find both from either input (just as they should be able to strip diacritics altogether from a search term, if desired).

The Unicode database dictates a rule for normalization that converts the higher code point to its corresponding lower code point.

Most Greek Fonts (Unicode) will display both versions identically. A notable exception is Adobe Garamond Premiere Pro, which places the accent in the lower code point versions at almost a vertical angle, and the upper code point versions at a slanted, ca. 45-degree angle. This can cause a problem with software that (correctly) normalizes the higher points to the lower ones, producing an inconsistent appearance of accentuation.

Recommendations

There have been problems with this (certain fonts in certain browsers don't get it right, for example). It seems (see discussion from GreekKeys Unicode) that the higher codepoint, in Extended Greek, has been de facto deprecated, by virtue of Unicode normalization rules that turn the higher code point vowels into their lower code point equivalents. By preference all tools and input methods should use the Basic Greek vowel+tonos for these character combinations. Fonts and search tools should continue to support both for the sake of legacy data.

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