Re: acute vs. kreska

From: Juliusz Chroboczek (
Date: Sat Oct 16 1999 - 11:41:22 EDT

Martin Kotulla <>:

MK> has a nice rundown on the design of Polish
MK> diacritics. They go to great lengths to point out that the Polish
MK> "kreska" is not identical with the acute accent in many other languages.
MK> The kreska is steeper than the acute accent.

MK> Too bad the Unicode Consortium didn't hear about this ... <g>

MK> Is this just typographical nitpicking or a real issue for Polish
MK> readers?

This is a real issue. A text in Polish typeset with the Spanish form
of `o acute' looks most definitely wrong. So does French text typeset
with the (dialectal) Polish `e kreska'. Similarly, you should not
typeset a French text using German umlauts, or a German text using
French diereses. (There are many other similar examples; one may
argue that small s has a different shape in German than in French.)

However, in all the cases above the text is legible without effort
(albeit with a vague feeling that something is wrong), so you might
consider this as ``typographical nit-picking''.

I am sure that members of the Unicode consortium know about this.
However, this is a non-issue as far as the character encoding is
concerned: Unicode often chose to unify glyph variants as long as no
confusion is possible (the best known example is that of Han (Chinese,
Japanese, Korean) characters). Disunifying such characters causes a
number of technical and political problems that have been discussed at
length, on this list and elsewhere.

This is something you should accept: there is no such thing as a
proper typography that works throughout the Latin-script-using world.
Typography is an important part of a coutry's culture, and is perforce
locale-specific. The solution, of course, is to have a smart
rendering engine that chooses glyph variants and typesetting rules
according to language. There are provisions for this in Unicode
(Plane 14 language tags), in HTML and XML (``lang=...''), in OpenType
(locale-specific glyph substitution).

As OpenType is not widely supported yet, and language-specific glyph
substitution is not supported at all for European languages, I would
suggest that font designers create locale-specific versions of their
fonts. I believe that there exists a market in Poland for fonts that
support proper Polish typography (unlike the Monotype/Microsoft WGL4
fonts distributed with Windows).

For more information, I suggest that you should contact Adam Twardoch,
the author of the pages (see CC), as well as Yannis
Haralambous, the author of Omega.


                                        Juliusz Chroboczek

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