Re: Transcribing old documents into Unicode compatible document files.

From: William Overington (
Date: Mon May 05 2003 - 17:25:40 EDT

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    Peter Constable wrote as follows.

    >William Overington wrote on 05/05/2003 05:52:43 AM:

    That's Central Daylight Time in Texas, I wrote from England.

    >> I wonder if I could please put forward an idea that fontmakers might like
    to consider please.

    >Once you're finished wondering, feel free to present your suggestion to the
    font makers on the list. And I wonder if I may please suggest that one might
    consider avoiding the practice of writing using unnecessary periphrasis
    please. :-)

    I did not know the meaning of the word periphrasis and so I looked it up at
    the on-line dictionary.

    Here is a transcript of what I wrote.


    I wonder if I could please put forward an idea that fontmakers might like to
    consider please. Whilst recognizing that adding a lot of extra accented
    characters for languages with other-than-large user populations to a font
    may not be the way to go for most fonts, how about adding four or five so
    that each font supports a language with an other-than-large user population?
    One font might support one language, another font another language. In that
    way the languages with other-than-large user populations might gradually
    acquire a choice of display fonts in which they can be set.

    There is a large collection of pdf files available in the webspace for the various languages of Europe, which
    documents specify the characters needed for each language. For some
    languages there is an overlap of characters with those for other languages,
    so the extra characters needed for a font which already has accented
    characters (for the languages with large populations of users) to support
    such languages is small.

    end quote

    Although you have sought to comment upon my style of writing, please know
    that the way I wrote is a perfectly ordinary way for someone to write polite
    English. If I were meeting various people in a gathering of people with
    interests in Unicode and there was general sociable discussion, if I wished
    to put forward such an idea for discussion and consideration by those
    present, I might well begin my contribution to the general sociable
    discussion by saying much those words. It is certainly not the only correct
    way to express oneself politely in English in England, yet, bearing in mind
    that you write from America it may be that you are simply commenting on one
    of the cultural differences between our two countries.

    On your comments upon my suggestion, perhaps I may comment.

    > What? A type designer is going to pick some arbitrary four or five extra
    accented characters to support in addition to (say) Windows cp1252?

    No, not arbitrary. The type designer would select a language, look up the
    characters needed and, if he or she felt that the task was reasonable, add
    in those characters to that font.

    > And we'll see what small-population languages any given font happens to

    Indeed, yes.

    > So, perhaps if they're lucky the approx. 200,000 speakers of Mbandja
    (say), having looked at 389 fonts, will finally find a font somewhat akin to
    Brush Script MT that happens to support their orthography?

    Well, I had not heard of Mbandja until you mentioned it.

    I was thinking in terms of languages such as Estonian and Maltese, yet
    Mbandja would be a perfectly reasonable suggestion in the context of my

    There would be no need for people to look at 389 fonts. There would be an
    index system, maybe even an organization such as SIL would be pleased to
    produce a list indexed by language of which fonts support which language.
    Anyway, why the number 389? I looked it up at which is one of the fascinating
    projects linked from the webspace.

    > And the benefit to either the type designer or the user community is?

    The type designer might perhaps, depending upon the type designer, various
    people each have their own personality, have a certain inner satisfaction at
    having provided a chance for people to be able to print words in their
    language in a display font.

    The user community would have the pleasure of printing words of their own
    language in a display font, so that they too could enjoy stylish typography
    in their own language.

    When I look at the web at font sites, so many fonts have only a few accented
    characters, often those for the languages with large user populations. It
    seems to me an issue which is part of the digital divide problem. I would
    have hoped that someone such as yourself with your interests would have
    encouraged the idea.

    > Some of us who are really working in a serious way with small-population
    language communities are taking a rather different approach toward this:
    provide comprehensive coverage of Latin characters. See for one example.

    I was already aware of Gentium from one of your previous postings. In fact,
    I was greatly inspired by the story of Gentium. If I lived near Reading I
    might well have tried to find out if it were possible for me to enrol on the
    course as a part-time student. Yet Reading is about eighty miles away from
    here, so it is not a realistic prospect for me. I was, please note, writing
    about display fonts. Are you seeking to put down my idea by an argument
    based upon the fallacy of the undistributed middle? Alright, I do not have
    the benefit of being working in a serious way with small-population
    languages as you are, and maybe my idea is only small in relation to the
    work you are doing, yet it is a serious suggestion and, if it gets taken up
    by some type designers, the idea could have a long term lasting benefit to
    millions of people eventually.

    Surely, it is a good suggestion. My own Quest text font, the latest version
    now available from the
    web page, already supports Estonian and already has some of the accented
    characters for Welsh. Since you mention the Mbandja language, how would a
    font designer straightforwardly find which characters are needed for that
    language please? I chose Estonian because I was impressed at the show that
    they put on for the Eurovision Song Contest last year with those short plays
    about various folk tales. I found the data from Michael Everson's
    marvellous webspace, which is from where I have obtained the information as
    to which characters are needed for Welsh. Most display fonts which I have
    found on the web do not support Estonian or Welsh, so already Quest text has
    special capabilities. Looking at the files from Michael's webspace one can
    readily find that the extra characters needed for Estonian, if one is
    already supporting German, is very small. How many extra characters are
    needed for Mbandja please?

    I hope that you might like to reconsider my idea. If a few font designers
    start to add a few less-than-common characters into fonts, then maybe
    something good will come out of it.

    William Overington

    5 May 2003

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