Font-related problem for linguists

Becky Smith Paterson becky_paterson at SIL.ORG
Thu Mar 1 17:31:13 UTC 2012

Hi Don,
Have you tried the font Doulos SIL available here (Note that this is different from the SIL Doulos which was not a Unicode font.) It has supported all the IPA characters I have ever needed, and I there is no alteration in the "a" when italicized in Microsoft Word. The ash [æ] also occurs as [æ] in italics. The font description from NRSI does not indicate an italic version, as the Charis description does. However, in Microsoft Word and Open Office, Doulos SIL renders in italics and bold without difficulty.  Most of my writing I have done in Microsoft Word in Doulos SIL, very often employing italics in line for IPA, then printing to PDF. There may be other pitfalls in using Doulos SIL, but I have not found them yet.


Becky Smith Paterson
SIL International
Email: becky_paterson at

On Mar 1, 2012, at 5:03 AM, Don Killian wrote:

> 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 problems.
> 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.
> Best,
> Don
> -- 
> 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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