Re: IPA a vowels

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Fri Sep 10 1999 - 11:41:07 EDT

Ar 07:05 -0700 1999-09-10, scríobh Robert Brady:

>If I extend a font which uses the
><round-a> glyph to cover the IPA range, I have to either
> a) make the <a> identical to the <round-a>. This is unacceptable.
> b) distinguish between the <round-a> and <a> whilst leaving the <a>
> unchanged. This will be confusing to users, who currently expect to
> see a <hooked-a> glyph for <a> in IPA contexts. This is unacceptable.
> c) make the <a> into a <hooked-a>, and make <round-a> a <round-a>. This
> is not something I am happy about, especially if I am trying to keep
> the original style of the font intact. It alters the appearance of
> normal plaintext to fix IPA text. I am not comfortable with doing
> this.

Actually, you're wrong.

This glyph problem has been known for a long time, and a solution was
found. The Finno-Ugric Phonetic Alphabet, a complex phonetic alphabet
unrelated to the IPA, is typically written in italics, and clearly
distinguishes between a round-a and an alpha-a in text. A project team was
set up to investigate what needs to be done to encode the FUPA in the UCS,
and we had to deal with this problem. We found that EXISTING PRACTICE
supported the unification of generic-a and hooktop-a. Here is the
typographer's solution:

1. In a Times roman font, use hooktop-a glyph for U+0061. Use a turned
hooktop-a glyph for U+0250. Use a stemless-d-a glyph for U+0251, and a
turned one for U+0252.

2. In a Times italic font, use the normal italic round-a glyph for U+0061.
Use a turned normal italic round-a glyph for U+0250. Use a
cross-stemmed-alpha glyph for U+0251, and a turned one for U+0252.

In a font which has no hooktop in unmodified roman form, use 2) here just
don't have any italics.

I can make a gif of this if it is necessary. But this is the solution
people who had a real need to make the distinction in lead type arrived at
long before us. It's a solution which was unknown to the UTC and WG2 when
IPA hooktop-a was unified with U+0061 -- and it shows clearly that the
unification is correct.

FUPA, by the way, doesn't care whether script-g or looptail-g is used. Both
appear in text with the same meaning.

Michael Everson * Everson Gunn Teoranta *
15 Port Chaeimhghein Íochtarach; Baile Átha Cliath 2; Éire/Ireland
Guthán: +353 1 478 2597 ** Facsa: +353 1 478 2597 (by arrangement)
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn;  Baile an Bhóthair;  Co. Átha Cliath; Éire

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