Greek Diacritics Again

From: Lukas Pietsch (
Date: Thu Nov 23 2000 - 12:11:15 EST

Dear all,

there's another issue about Greek diacritics I'd like to ask the opinion of
the people who are in the know: the question of (monotonic) Greek "TONOS"
and (polytonic) Greek "OXIA" and their equivalence. I know this has had a
somewhat troublesome history in Unicode.

I seem to remember I read in some Unicode document that the Greek "TONOS"
could be realized *either* as an acute *or* as a vertical stroke. I can't
locate the reference at the moment. Unfortunately I haven't got the book at
hand here and I've been searching the website in vain. Is the standard
(still) actually saying this, or is my memory failing me?

On the other hand, the standard is of course quite unambiguous now about the
fact that the two accents are equivalent in principle. All the "Oxia"
codepoints in 1fxx are singletons (therefore deprecated?) and canonically
map to the corresponding "tonos" codepoints in 03xx.

Would it be fair to sum up the consequences of all this for font design in
the following way: If a font is designed for use with both monotonic and
polytonic Greek, then the "tonos" glyphs should *definitely* look like
acutes. If a font is designed for monotonic Greek only, a font designer can
choose to use either acutes or verticals (or any other shape, for that
matter: decorative typefaces in Greece are apparently using all sorts of
things from wedges to dots or squares...)
But can you think of any good reason for a font to have different (default)
glyphs for the "tonos" and for the "oxia" characters side by side?

Lukas Pietsch
Ferdinand-Kopf-Str. 11
D-79117 Freiburg
Tel. 0761-696 37 23

Universitšt Freiburg
Englisches Seminar

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