ABDVol.31 No.3

The Utilization of Computers in Uighur Publishing
Yasin Imin and Batur Musa
 

Processing information with the computer is, in the first place, demonstrated in the processing of languages and scripts. It is both the demand of the society, and inevitable outcome of the development of computer technology that people use the computer directly in terms of their native language.
 The success of the Uighur printing system has ushered the computer into the elegant Uighur culture and facilitated the popularization of the computer in this region. Applications of the computer have also transformed the traditional concept of publishing and had a tremendous impact on Uighur printing.

Application of the Computer in Uighur Publishing

Uighurs have a population of about 8 million and live mainly in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, which is the northwest part of the P. R. China. Since ancient times, Uighurs have been changing and improving their script and now have created a perfect modern Uighur script. Uighur is used widely as one of the two major scripts in Xinjiang in the press, media and other information fields, and is contributing dramatically to the development of this region.
 Research on the processing of Uighur script had begun in the early 1980s. Respective creation of operating systems, script and sound recognizing systems, printing systems, correcting systems, electronic dictionaries, etc. has boosted the popularization of computers in return and is playing a very important role in the social and economic activities in the region.
 Uighurs, who have contributed a lot to the development of printing techniques, and had first invented the stencil printing technique among nations which use alphabetic scripts, had begun the application of computers in 1988. In the beginning, Uighur scripts were edited in the computer, and then were sent to a photo typesetting (composition) machine for page designing. But this system had only a few font styles (typeface), the form of letters was too rough, and the operations were too complicated.Therefore, it could not meet the standard of the press and was not widely used. The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional Working Committee of Minorities' Language and Writing developed the desktop publishing system (DTP) "Boghda" in 1989. Also in 1990, with the assistance of Beijing University this committee created the Uighur version of the "Fang Zheng" (DTP). These new systems have been widely used, radically changing the traditional concept of printing and initiating a revolution in Uighur press. Since then, several excellent and powerful DTP systems that can meet the standards of press have been developed and widely used.

Computer Use in Uighur Publishing and Its Effects

Previously, letterpress was used in printing newspapers, magazines and books; therefore, the whole process of composing different forms of Uighur letters, page designing and correcting was carried out in accordance with the special requirements of the letterpress technology. The emergence of processing of Uighur script and page designing systems on the computer brought about the rapid development of Uighur publishing and greatly increased printing quality and efficiency. Application of the computer not only decreased the cost of publishing, but also saved the time taken to convey the manuscript between printing factory and publishing house during the period of editing, correcting and page designing. Moreover, one can avoid repeating work, simplify the page designing and editing process, shorten the production period of publication, and improve the quality of publication. Therefore since 1991, the publishing houses of all newspapers, magazines, books and printing factories have used computers instead of the printing using lead letterpress.

1) There was a revolution in printing technology.
In former times, workers wore work clothes, and dealt with poisonous lead all day long. Nowadays, they are working in comfortable offices. Moreover, the concepts of typesetting, page designing, correcting, etc. have been revolutionized with the electronic printing technology. Thus the efficiency of work and the number of publications was greatly increased.

2) There was improvement in the quality of publication.
In early times, because letterpress had been used in Uighur publishing, there were only a few font styles in the lead alphabet, and there were restrictions in changing the font size, and difficulties in using artistic calligraphy, and in mixing pictureand scripts etc. for page designing. After utilizing computers, the above factors became completely free from restriction, enabling the appearance of characteristic page styles and elegant covers.

3) There was a change in the media of publication.
For the traditional Uighur press, paper was a medium; script was a basic representative form. The advantages of the computer provided conditions for collecting, processing and transferring information efficiently and quickly. Paper, type, disc and CD became the new media combining script, picture and sound.

The Difficulties of Using the Uighur Script in DTP

The design of the Uighur press helps to solve technical problems such as syllabification, automatic form-choosing, dealing with the multi-script type setting according to the writing system etc., and affected the development of publishing, but it is impossible to avoid some difficulties in using the DTP.

1) Complexity in Uighur writing system
Modern Uighur script is alphabetic writing changed in the light of the Arabic alphabet, expressing the phoneme with letters. There are 32 letters in modern Uighur and these letters have 124 forms altogether. One letter has four forms according to its place in a word. These forms are isolated, initial, medial and final and they are written from right to left, from top to bottom. Because of the differences of width of every form and the complex syllabification, it causes certain difficulties in dealing with Uighur script in DTP system in automatic form-choosing, automatic syllabification, balancing the lines, etc. As well as the above, because we are inputting the word or sentence system according to the Uighur sentence-structure and grammatical analysis and corrector system, we need to spend a lot of energy correcting the misspelled words which are used wrongly.

2) Mutual incompatibility of DTP systems

After the computer was utilized to deal with Uighur script, a few publishing systems appeared one after another. But because of the differences between companies producing the system and the lack of an Uighur calibrated code system, the text information and page (layout) information dealt with in DTP are different and unable to support each other. This phenomenon is causing difficulties in transferring the text prepared in one system into another one and affects the exchange of information.

3) Multi-layer of script

Xinjiang Autonomous Region is a multi-cultural area. Besides Uighur there are other peoples such as Han, Mongol, Kazak, Kerghiz, and Xibo, who have their own languages and writing, so many languages are used in Xinjiang. In order to encourage mutual cultural acceptance and appreciation, publications are published not only in Uighur, but also in other languages. Most of the other scripts are written in the opposite direction to Uighur. the object of the script. The incomplete DTP's ability to deal with the multi-script cause certain difficulties for users.

4) Environment of DTP in Uighur
Although Uighur publishing has developed itself by using the computer, because of the limitations of the objective environment (most of the DTP systems are used in the environment of MS-DOS), it faces a lot of difficulties in producing all kinds of electronic publications in different environments in connecting and publishing in Internet, etc.

Future Development of Uighur Publishing

Recently, there are 13 Uighur publishing houses, 69 public publication editorial departments, 65 restricted publication editorial departments and 35 newspaper offices in the region. Every year more than 1,300 titles of books and 500 monthly publications are published. Although computers are being used in Uighur press, paper still plays an important role in publication. In order to improve the development of Uighur press, vary the range of publication and fully meet the readers' need, the publishers must come to grips with the electronic publication field, because its continuing marketablity depends on the electronic publishing. Then it can digitize script, photo and sound information and edit publications with suitable software. This kind of publication will open a new way to a state such as exploiting information transmitted with national spoken and written language, developing the economy, setting up a good relationship between press and readers, shortening the time needed for readers to find or read papers, improving the publishers' working conditions, and changing the form of traditional material storing.

1) Digitizing the process of publishing
This is needed in all the process of inserting originals electronically, editing, art designing, type-setting, printing, etc. The most important thing of all is to realize the Uighur operating system in writing, image-processing and typesetting. There exist difficulties in using DTP with the lack of a lexical and picture-character-speech system. Uighur press is still anticipating a perfect system including the above. If the system can be used in Uighur publishing, it will be able to simplify the process, cut the expense of publication and digitize the press.

2) Digitizing information for publication

This means spreading all kinds of multi-surround information in the form of electronic papers or books or information networks. If this is realized, it will cause a great change in the method of storing information for publications, filing and searching information. Then we will be able to improve the relation between publishing houses, share the information with each other and use it efficiently and also be able to produce more publications with Internet and improve the quality of Uighur.

3) Digitizing the publications
This means the publications with CD or Internet in place of paper. Electronic publication has more advantages over traditional publications not only in storing information, but sorting the objects and transferring information speedily. If it is realized in Uighur publishing, there will be following advantages.
* The information contained in electronic publications is dynamic, so the relations between items are shown in multi-surround informational form such as writing, sound and picture.
* Electronic publications are stored information in the form of database, hypertext and hypermedia with the help of computer, so there are many ways to search for information speedily.

From the above we can see that operating electronic publishing in Uighur does not simply mean digitization, but also combining the traditional publication form with modern high-tech. It plays an important role in Uighur culture, education, entertainment, broadcasting and informational network.

References:
1) "Uighur Text Processing on Computer" by Yasin Imin., International Conference on Multilingual Text Processing, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, 1999
2) Book Forum 99 year 1-2, 3-4 bimonthly.

Yasin Imin, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional Working Committee of Minorities' Language and Writing
Graduated from the Electronics Department of Xinjiang University in 1990. Since then he has been working for Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Regional Working Committee of Minorities' Language and Writing, in Language Researching Department. He took part in developing the multi-writing DTP system in Xibo, Manju, Uighur, Kazakh, Kerghiz, etc. He has created the Uighur corrector system, and is now working on a card-managing system in order to facilitate the automation of Uighur lexicography.
Batur Musa
Graduated from the Electronics Department of Xinjiang University in 1990. Since then he has been working for Xinjiang Daily Press.