Re: ZWJ and Latin Ligatures (was Re: (long) Re: Chromatic font research)

From: James Kass (
Date: Sat Jul 06 2002 - 05:42:19 EDT

John H. Jenkins wrote,

> There's another level of problem here, too. What if it isn't the author's
> intent, but an artifact of the particular typesetter?

When making an electronic reproduction of a specific text, a purist will
even duplicate any typographical errors found in the source.

>>... However, options should be preserved
>> for the user. Ligature selection is a task for the author/typesetter
>> at the fundamental level; it should not be completely left to the
>> rendering system.
> Er, James. I've never said it should. The rendering system should have
> the ability to do default ligation. The user should be able to override
> that behavior. That's what happens on systems I see. If they do ligation
> at *all*, they have a default behavior which can be overridden.

Sorry to have misunderstood you.

IMO, ligation should be off by default, and users should be able to
enable it. I expect my browser to display the "fi" ligature whenever
the string "f+ZWJ+i" is encountered. If the presentation form is
used, naturally the ligature should display. However, if the original
author simply entered "f+i", the string would be expected. This is
because it isn't the browser's job to guess which orthographic rules
apply. And, it isn't acceptable for a computer to alter a person's
input without permission, even for display purposes.

> I'll repeat a point that I've made over and over and over.
> The "ct" ligature does not exist in and of itself. It is a part of a
> typeface. It doesn't make sense in general to ask for the formation of a
> "ct" ligature without any reference to the typeface you're using.

Sorry, I'm still missing it here. Is this like saying the ligature "&" does
not exist in and of itself; it is a part of a typeface? Or, like stating
that it doesn't make sense to ask for Hindi text without any reference
to the font?

> The implication of what you're saying is that Latin typefaces should be
> *required* to have a "ct" ligature on the off chance that the author of
> text determines that it's "required" in a particular context. That gives
> most type designers the heebie jeebies. It's bad enough that Adobe and
> Apple are making them stick useless "fi" and "fl" ligatures in their fonts.

Doug Ewell already answered this.

> In any event, if an author determines that a "ct" ligature is honestly and
> absolutely *required* in a particular context (as opposed to being
> desirable), then the ZWJ mechanism exists.

And, if an author determines that the browser or mark-up of choice
doesn't have global ligature options, the ZWJ mechanism still exists?

>>> To be frank, turning on an optional "ct" ligature throughout a document
>>> by
>>> means of inserting ZWJ everywhere you want it to take place makes as much
>>> sense in that model—the model that Western typography uses for languages
>>> such as English—as having the user insert a <i></i> pair around every
>>> letter they want in italics.
>> Not at all. This is apples and oranges. The italic tags operate upon
>> every character in the enclosed string equally. Using a similar ligature
>> tag would be expected to make ligatures wherever possible within the
>> enclosed string according the the user system's ability to render
>> ligatures... irrespective of the author's intent. Depending upon the
>> system, the same run of text could be expressed with no ligatures
>> at all in a monospaced font or as scripto continuo in a handwriting
>> font.
> Er, you've just made my point, haven't you? The typeface makes a
> difference. If you're ever in a situation where the typeface of the
> originator may be different from the typeface of the receiver, you've lost
> the ability to say whether or not ligatures should be used in a particular
> context. Or do you want a "ct" ligature in Courier?

I'd never disagree that the typeface makes a difference. On the contrary,
I'm wondering if you haven't just made my point. If the ZWJ mechanism
is used, then the ability to say whether or not ligatures should be used is
directly encoded in the text and can't possibly be lost.

> If I want to reproduce, say, my reproduction of the 1611 KJV, it's equally
> incorrect to use a sans-serif typeface. Actually, technically, my
> reproduction is already doing something very naughty by this standard,
> since the *real* 1611 KJV was in blackletter.

If a font isn't specified by the author, the author may be assured that
somebody someplace is reading KJ in a Bazooka Joe typeface. If I were
to post an HTML version of the 1611 KJV, in my intro would appear a
note advising that if the reader wanted to see the display in the same
flavor as the source, they should download and install a specific font
or fonts along with links.

> The precise reproduction of the appearance of a text is *NOT* possible in
> plain text. It is *NOT* the intention of Unicode to make it possible.

This is understood without plain text italic shouting. That's what HTML
is for (exact appearance, that is).

>> How about "Encyclopædia Britannica"? That's plain text enough.
>> It's the title of a book; it isn't italic, bold, blue, or green. To cite
>> from "Encyclopedia" or "Encyclopaedia" would be correct, but not
>> perfectly so.
> I'd say it's perfectly correct.

Enclyclopedia can be spelled in those three ways and be correct, but
only one of them is contained in the actual title of the set in question.

> I pick up any of the various Shakespeare's on my shelf. Some of them use
> the æ ligature and some of them don't. It's a matter of choice in English
> typography. Some books I have talk about hæmoglobin, some about
> haemoglobin, and some about hemoglobin. If I'm publishing a book on blood
> chemistry, and the typesetter has turned all my hemoglobins into
> hæmoglobin, I may question their sanity, but I won't object that they got
> it "wrong." (Well, I would in the US, but not in the UK, and that's
> because I realize that the "ae/æ" spelling is the preferred one over there.
> )

In <i>Punch</i> magazine, there was a cartoon (reprinted in <i>The Best
Cartoons from Punch</i>, Simon and Schuster ©1952) in which the famed
playwright is directing the painting of a sign. The sign says: "GLOBE
SHAKSPER (crossed out)
SHAKSPERE (crossed out)
SHAKSPEARE (crossed out)
SHAKESPEARE (crossed out)
SHAGSPERE (crossed out)
...and the caption (from the sign painter) says, "I'd better come back when
you've made up your mind."

(So, Queen Elizabeth Ⅰ may have had a fancy flourish to her signature,
but she apparently couldn't spell so well... not only was she inconsistent
with her nom de plume, she seems to have had trouble with Danmark.)

We certainly agree that ligature use is a choice. I think we diverge
on just what kind of choice is involved. You consider that ligature
use is generally similar to bold or italic choices. I consider use of
ligatures to be more akin to differences in spelling. If you're
quoting from a source which used the word "fount", it is wrong to
change it to "font". And, if you're quoting from a source which
used "hæmoglobin", anything other than "hæmoglobin" is incorrect.
If the source used "&c.", it should never be changed to "etc.".
So, if the source used the "ct" ligature...

Best regards,

James Kass.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.2 : Sat Jul 06 2002 - 03:48:34 EDT