From: William Overington (WOverington@ngo.globalnet.co.uk)
Date: Mon May 05 2003 - 17:25:40 EDT
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
I did not know the meaning of the word periphrasis and so I looked it up at
the http://www.m-w.com 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
http://www.evertype.com 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.
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
> 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
http://www.turbulence.org/Works/nums/ which is one of the fascinating
projects linked from the http://www.flong.com 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
http://www.sil.org/~gaultney/gentium/ 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 http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~ngo/font7001.htm
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.
5 May 2003
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