Georgian Capital letters added to Unicode. Now what?

Last may Unicode approved 46 Capital letters of Georgian Mkhedruli alphabet.

Maybe it’s a bit early, but operating systems will support this change in future anyway. Out of curiosity I decided to do a little research about what will change for us – developers and I’m sharing it in this article.

Few definitions just in case:
Unicode – A standard, which maps every symbol with an unique number. Also it describes specific rules for different languages. This standard is used all over the technical world and everyone who needs text processing / representing, follows it – Operating systems, platforms, browsers…

UTF-8 – Unicode has the list of symbols and number codes, but it does not care how this information will be stored in memory. There are various encoding algorithms for this. UTF-8 is one of the most popular ones as it optimally uses memory and does not require extra bytes for a symbol which can be fit in just one. Other encoding examples are UCS-2, UTF-16, UTF-32…

Changes in a standard cause changes in implementations, which does not happen immediately. For instance, ₾ Georgian currency symbol was added to 8 version of Unicode on 17 may, 2015 and the Windows update for this symbol was released on 19 January, 2016.

Operating Systems should update keyboard drivers to enable Georgian users use CAPS mode to write Capital letters (there are 33 letters in Georgian, so shift+symbols method is already taken). Also system fonts should be updated, so correct symbols will appear during the font fallback.

Due to the fact, that the Capital and Small versions of the same letter have different codes, software developers usually need some considerations – up until now only for other languages, now for Georgian, too. For instance, when it’s necessary to compare strings, search, match regex patterns, sort, store into the database, etc.



MS SQL server has built in Unicode support and during the operations it follows the standard anyway. Just make sure it follows the correct version: SQL Fiddle

It’s different with MySQL – Here each database, table or even a column might have corresponding collation defined, based on what kind of information it stores. We are accustomed to using utf8_general_ci, as it ‘processes’ Georgian letters, too. This collation does not completely implement the Unicode unlike utf8_unicode_ci. Generally, it was being used just because of better performance, however, there is not much difference with modern processors. utf8_unicode_ci will correctly process new Georgian alphabet upon version upgrade.

Here is an example:
Together with the unique codes, Unicode also defines the order of symbols, which is used during sorting. E.g. in this list all kinds of Georgian letter ‘ა’ are listed together – Nuskhuri, Asomtavruli and Mkhedruli. Then versions of ‘ბ’ letter appear. Probably new capital letters will be added in the same way.

SQL Fiddle

  `content` varchar(200) NOT NULL
) DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;
INSERT INTO `test` (`content`) VALUES
  ('აბგ'),  ('ააააა'),  ('Ⴁააააა'),  ('Ⴀააააა'),  ('bcd'),  ('ab.'),  ('Ⴄ'),  ('ж'),  ('Ж'),  ('ц'),  ('Ц');

  `content` varchar(200) NOT NULL
) DEFAULT CHARSET=utf8 COLLATE utf8_unicode_ci;
INSERT INTO `test_better` (`content`) VALUES
  ('აბგ'),  ('ააააა'),  ('Ⴁააააა'),  ('Ⴀააააა'),  ('bcd'),  ('ab.'),  ('Ⴄ'),  ('ж'),  ('Ж'),  ('ц'),  ('Ц');

select * from `test` d order by d.content;
select * from `test_better` d order by d.content;


ab., bcd, Ж, ж, ц, Ц, Ⴀააააა, Ⴁააააა, Ⴄ, ააააა, აბგ
ab., bcd, ж, Ж, ц, Ц, ააააა, Ⴀააააა, აბგ, Ⴁააააა, Ⴄ

The MySQL 8 beta release, which appeared currently, has implemented Unicode version 9, our capital letters are in version 11 🙂



Although there are many implementations, we can’t ignore V8 anyway, so I’ll discuss based on it.

Javascript has Unicode support, but some things still have problems (e.g. unicode regex). If we need sorting or filtering on our site, than ordinary sort won’t work any more and we should use Locale. Then it will consider Unicode rules. For instance:

let a = ['აბგ','ააააა','Ⴁააააა','Ⴀააააა','bcd','ab.','Ⴄ','ж','Ж','ц','Ц'];

Unfortunately it does not have support for Georgian collation at all. So, we cannot correctly sort together with Nuskhuri and Asomtavruli. Well, this is a very rare case anyway, so no need to worry. Casual function sorts based on the code points, so it will be according to alphabet (with the exception of capital letters).

That problem with capitals can be solved by converting strings to the same case. Giorgi suggested an idea:

myArray.sort(function(s1,s2){ return s1.toLowerCase() > s2.toLowerCase()}));

Probably it will work correctly for Georgian, too, after V8 renews the Unicode implementation. Currently it works like that for Asomtavruli and Nuskhuri: "Ⴀ".toLowerCase() => "ⴀ"

It seems that, as standard defined Asomtavruli as CAPITAL and Nuskhuri as SMALL, these alphabets are implemented as cases of single one instead of being two completely different alphabets. (v8 source file:, code points are mapped directly.)
Now Mkhedruli is caseless. It’s interesting how it will be marked. I think there is no other language with two kinds of Capital letters.
Anyway, this requires the version upgrade anyway.

Now I remembered, that V8 is an open source project and a volunteer can add Georgian locale. For the time being this results in an empty array:




Java is not in a hurry to upgrade either. JDK 9 with the Unicode 8 implementation (where Lari currency symbol was added) was released after two years – September of 2017.
Here the strings are compared with ‘equals’. In future we’ll need to use the ‘equalsIgnoreCase’ method for Georgian, too:

"Ⴀ".equals("ⴀ")  => false
"Ⴀ".equalsIgnoreCase("ⴀ")  => true

As there is one Capital alphabet already, I’m testing with it. We just don’t use that alphabet generally.

Also, we can’t search with regex directly. Ordinary i – ignore case flag does not work, as Unicode is processed differently. So, we should write:

"A".matches("(?i)[a]")  => true
"Ⴀ".matches("(?i)[ⴀ]") => false

Pattern.compile("[ⴀ]", Pattern.CASE_INSENSITIVE | Pattern.UNICODE_CASE).matcher("Ⴀ").matches();  => true

Correspondingly, we should consider this wherever we use strings – maps, sets, etc.



Generally, working with unicode strings is not pleasant in PHP at all + more conversions will be added here, too.


We’ll also need change at other place – with very convenient search tools – grep and the similar ones. The case insensitive option of grep does not work for existing Georgian Asomtavruli capital alphabet even now. I hope the Unicode changes will be reflected in their upgrades, too. They are great apps for regex filtering and searching in large (or small) texts and files.

Many of Georgian application systems won’t be able to quickly upgrade their platforms, as testing would take huge amount of time. They will probably add some conversions and validations in front-end, to prevent user input capital strings from appearing in old Java or other systems.

Overall, I like that Capital letters were added (as a result of several persons hard work). It’s an important part of the Georgian language and should not be lost.

Do you have any ideas, what else will need to be changed?

Some resources about the topic: – UNICODE-მა ქართული მხედრული ანბანის 46 მთავრული ასონიშანი დაამტკიცა
DevFest 2016: Akaki Razmadze –  ❤  [I LOVE UNICODE]
DevFest 2017: Akaki Razmadze – გუტენბერგი, სტივ ჯობსი, გუგლი, ხინკალი, უნიკოდი
DevFest 2016: Michael Everson – The confusing case history of Georgian in Unicode



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