Font-related problem for linguists

Don Killian donald.killian at HELSINKI.FI
Thu Mar 1 11:03:39 UTC 2012

Hi all,

This is perhaps a silly question, but I was wondering if anyone would be 
willing to help with a problem I've been having.

As far as I'm aware, it's common practice to have single words in 
italics when they're inside text and from another language.  For 
languages with insufficient or non-existent orthographies, this is then 
done in IPA.

Charis SIL is the only font I personally know of with full support for 
italicized IPA.  Some other fonts can handle most of IPA, e.g. Deja Vu 
Sans and Arial Unicode, but some of the combine characters can cause 

However, Charis SIL has a rather annoying feature: when you italicize a 
it becomes ɑ, and in many ATR languages of Africa, the distinction 
between a and ɑ does indeed exist.  To turn this off, you're forced to 
use a user-selected variant of slant-italics, which not all programs 
support, or make your own font, which can cause other problems such as 
with some typesetters or journals, who aren't willing to do that.

When I emailed SIL, they weren't willing to change the basic function of 
the font because they said there hasn't been a demand for it.

But right now, this means that linguists are left without a single 
option for a font supporting both IPA and italics.

If anyone has any alternatives they've used, I'm open to listening, but 
I can't imagine having both italics and IPA in an article or book is 
very rare, and I've seen numerous books which have evidently had 
problems with this.

And, if anyone else would like to email SIL, their email address is:
nrsi_intl at  Perhaps more linguists requesting this feature could 
encourage SIL enough to create a font with support for italicized IPA.


Don Killian
Researcher in African Linguistics
Department of Modern Languages
PL 24 (Unioninkatu 40)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki
+358 (0)44 5016437

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