Perl Unicode Cookbook: Unicode Collation

℞ 35: Unicode collation

Sorting—even pure ASCII—seems easy, at least if you know the alphabet song. Yet even something this simple gets complicated if you sort merely by codepoint. You get numbers coming in the midst of letters. You get "ZZZ" coming before "aaa". You get much worse problems, too. (How do you sort puncutation, for example?)

Sorting Unicode data seems much more difficult: the rules for each character specify its relationship to other characters. These collation rules guide the sorting and comparison of data with respect to case sensitivity, accent marks, character width, and other Unicode properties.

A simple sort of Unicode data—based on codepoint—produces nothing in a sensible alphabetic order. A sensible sorting must respect the Unicode Collation Algorithm (UCA) instead. The CPAN module Unicode::Collate implements UCA. Its simple use is:

 use Unicode::Collate;
 my $col  = Unicode::Collate->new();
 my @list = $col->sort(@old_list);

See also the ucsort program from the Unicode::Tussle CPAN module for a convenient command-line interface to this module.

In fact, sort aware of UCA sorts ASCII text better than simple ASCII sorts sort ASCII text, because UCA accounts for numbers, punctuation, and other non-alphanumerics.

Previous: ℞ 34: Unicode Column Width for Printing

Series Index: The Standard Preamble

Next: ℞ 36: Case- and Accent-insensitive Sorting

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