Font-related problem for linguists

Michael Cysouw cysouw at EVA.MPG.DE
Fri Mar 2 09:18:44 UTC 2012

Dear all,

I really don't seen any problem here, except that SIL does not want to make a separate glyph for the italics ɑ (U+0251) in their Charis SIL font (at least, that is what Don claimed SIL said to him). Currently, the italics variants of U+0251 and U+0061simply use the same glyph in Charis SIL. I think (with many of you here) that this is not ideal.

However, other fonts do make a difference (e.g. Times New Unicode, or STIX, or Arial, or Helvetica), and there is nothing in the Unicode definitions that would speak against doing this. It is simply (IMHO) a bad typographic decision in the design of Charis SIL. As a general rule, I would think that two different characters should *never* have the same italic variant.

As for the alternate glyphs that Rik mentioned: if you are on a Macintosh, try for example TextEdit, set your format to Rich Text, set the font to Charis SIL and insert an upper case velar nasal symbol Ŋ (U+014A). Then select this symbol, open the Special Characters window (cmd+T), and select the typography options from little 'gear' symbol at the bottom left of this window. Now you can see that SIL provides four alternative ways to render this glyph. This is great stuff, but completely overkill for the italics "ɑ" problem.

As for Martin's suggestion to add a symbol to Unicode: no, they won't do that because IPA is considered an extension of the Latin alphabet. Also, there is already enough cruft in the Unicode specification because of backwards compatibility, not to speak of all the different A-like symbols...

A (U+0041)
А (U+0410)
ᴀ (U+1D00)
A (U+FF21)
𐌀 (U+10300)
𝖠 (U+1D5A0)
𝙰 (U+1D670)
Ꭺ (U+13AA)
ᗅ (U+15C5)
Α (U+0391)



On 1 Mar 2012, at 12:03, Don Killian wrote:

> 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.

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