PROPOSAL NO.: 2002-11

DATE: May 9, 2002

NAME: Repertoire Expansion in the Universal Character Set for Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

SOURCE: Canadian Committee on MARC

SUMMARY: This paper proposes that, for records in UCS/Unicode only, the repertoire permitted in MARC 21 be expanded to include all characters from the Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics set. (An appendix provides background on Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics.)

KEYWORDS: UCS/Unicode (All); MARC-8 (All); Canadian Aboriginal Syllabic set (All)

RELATED: 2002-DP06 (Jan. 2002)


05/09/02 - Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

06/17/02 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - Approved.

07/11/02 - Results of LC/NLC review - Approved.

PROPOSAL NO. 2002-11: Repertoire Expansion in the Universal Character Set for Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics


Discussion paper 2002-DP06 was presented to the MARC Advisory Committee at the Midwinter meeting in January 2002. It discussed expansion within the UCS framework to accommodate records encoded using Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics. The consensus of the discussion of 2002-DP06 was that there is a demonstrated need for expanding the current character repertoire for CAS, thereby treating it as a special case, and that this should be brought forward as a proposal.


The impetus behind this proposal is based on a current difficulty in Canadian cataloging--the use of Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics (CAS), which is a writing system used for the Cree and Inuktitut languages. Since the creation of the new territory of Nunavut in April 1999, there has been a resultant increase in usage of the script. Because the use of romanized forms is not an acceptable solution within Canada's national perspective, repertoire expansion is an urgent national priority in Canada to accommodate bibliographic information using CAS.

Three options relating to flagging the presence of expansion at the record level were also presented in discussion paper 2002-DP06. The mechanisms considered were either to add a value to Leader/09 (Character coding scheme), or define a subfield in variable field 066 (Character sets present) to carry coded information signaling expansion, or not to flag character repertoire at the individual record level at all.

The consensus of the discussion of 2002-DP06 was that there is no need to flag the presence of character set expansion at the individual record level. Considerations were that coding the flag reliably may be difficult, and that any future expansion to the MARC-8 set would continually make the coding in records inaccurate. The preference was to treat the identification function for selective exporting as a local system responsibility. When FTP is the transfer method used, the character set information about a file could be transmitted in the electronic transfer label file using the Character Set and Set Variations fields as already defined.


Approve the Canadian Aboriginal Syllabic set, Unicode code range 1401-1676, for use in MARC 21 records, making appropriate editorial adjustments to MARC 21 Specifications for Record Structure, Character Sets, and Exchange Media.


The Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics (CAS) writing system was created by James Evans, a Wesleyan missionary in what is now Manitoba in 1840. CAS was first used for the writing of Cree and Ojibwe and was adapted later by others for writing the Inuit language (Inuktitut). A number of other Athabaskan and Algonquian languages have used syllabics but currently the principal usage is Cree and Inuktitut.

CAS characters were added to Unicode with version 3.0 and published in The Unicode Standard, Version 3.0, Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, 2000 (ISBN 0-201-61633-5). The code range is 1401-1676. Approximately 600 code positions are currently defined, around 100 of which are in actual use for either Cree or Inuktitut.

On April 1, 1999, Canada created in the eastern Arctic a new territory called Nunavut. Eight-five percent of the population of this territory is Inuit. The territorial government, by policy, has adopted both Inuktitut as well as English as the language of the workplace. Rapidly increasing amounts of written materials are being produced in Nunavut using CAS. Cataloging of these materials at the Legislative Library as well as at other government libraries is being done using CAS (using a VTLS local system). CAS are also in widespread use in the area of northern Quebec (called Nunavik) where initiatives are underway to create a similar kind of self-government as was done in Nunavut.

Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics can be found at: Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics. Range: 1400-167F.

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