Re: glyph selection for Unicode in browsers

From: Tex Texin (
Date: Fri Sep 27 2002 - 10:31:18 EDT

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    Thanks for commenting. Responses embedded.

    John Cowan wrote:
    > Tex Texin scripsit:
    > > I do need to point out that user preference is problematic if it means
    > > that for a user to display a multilingual document, the user has to go
    > > thru and specify font preferences for languages they know nothing about.
    > How can this be avoided? If I print a document containing a small amount
    > of text in Georgian (in a bibliography entry, say), I am not going to
    > know if the Georgian font is the most beautiful thing ever made or one
    > that is utterly illegible. I have to pass it to someone who can read
    > Georgian and wait for the "Aah!" or "Arrgh!" as the case may be.
    > Or I can take the default and hope for the best.

    All I ask is the defaults be adequate. I wouldn't disallow software from
    providing for users to express preferences. I am trying to avoid it
    being required of users to provide preferences. Yes, most users don't
    know which fonts are the best choices.

    > > Just because I don't read CJK, doesn't mean I don't have legitimate
    > > needs to display or print CJK in a typographically correct way.
    > > Librarians, Commerce exchanges, mailing lists, localizers, etc.
    > Since the issue is not really a matter of language, but of typographic
    > tradition (see John Jenkins's excellent discussion of this question at
    >, there is no such thing
    > as a "typographically correct way". In particular (as noted in the FAQ),
    > it is commonplace for a Japanese document that quotes Chinese text to
    > use Japanese-style glyphs for both languages, as this is apparently less
    > jarring to the average Japanese reader.

    "Typographically correct" was too strong. I am just looking for the font
    to reflect the language, so CJK is displayed as either C or J or K as
    indicated by HTML or XML lang tags.

    With respect to the comment from John's FAQ, it is reasonable but only
    for a user who is primarily or strongly a C, or J or K reader.
    For many applications, such as printing labels for card catalogs or
    mailing lists, the user's preference does not matter (because the
    printout targets someone other than the person operating the software).
    Also, for someone like myself who is not a reader, I would like text
    displayed the same way each time so I stand a better chance of
    recognizing it.
    As more people work with multilingual data, I think more users will be
    like myself.

    An author of a primarily Japanese document could choose not to tag
    Chinese text as Chinese, and so get a Japanese rendering of the text,
    but that could hurt search engines or other applications that use
    language tags for purposes other than rendering... So I stick with the
    idea that text should be tagged with language appropriately, and a user
    that reads Japanese and prefers to see Chinese text with Japanese glyphs
    have the ability to override the language tags to affect rendering.

    > > But although you didn't quite say this, a user could provide a
    > > preference not for font, but language, i.e. if the script is CJK,
    > > display it as C or J or K (or T). And given the language the font
    > > mechanisms would do a reasonable thing.
    > That is reasonable provided you grasp what is meant by "language
    > preference" here: namely, typographical tradition preference. It would
    > be like choosing between Fraktur and Antiqua when reading German text:
    > this too is rather broader than a mere font difference.

    I am not a typographer, and I am just trying to point out requirements
    for font selection for a typical user or at least a user that is not a
    linguist, not a typographer, not a font specialist, and who wants to
    display/print "pan-Unicode" or "pan-script unicode-based" text.
    I am not trying to address high end publishing requirements.

    I can't say if "typographical tradition preference" (TTP) is the correct
    term for "language preference". (I figure I got into enough trouble
    using "typographically correct".) I hope the discussion above was clear
    enough. I'll let others comment on TTP, and if there is general
    agreement that it is a better and more precise and accurate term, I am
    fine with it. I am not familiar enough with Fraktur and Antiqua to
    knowledgably comment. From what little I do know this seems to require
    more than language information to decide between them.
    (I did find an interesting article on Fraktur though in trying to
    understand your meaning,

    p.s. I am about to travel and may not have email for a few days. (A
    cheer goes up from the list...)

    > --
    > A mosquito cried out in his pain, John Cowan
    > "A chemist has poisoned my brain!"
    > The cause of his sorrow
    > Was para-dichloro-
    > Diphenyltrichloroethane. (aka DDT)

    Tex Texin   cell: +1 781 789 1898
    Xen Master                
    Making e-Business Work Around the World

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