Re: [A12n-Collab] Latin alpha (Re: Public Review Issues Update)

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Tue Aug 31 2004 - 19:19:24 CDT

From: "John Hudson" <>
> Donald Z. Osborn wrote:
> > According to data from R. Hartell (1993), the latin alpha is used in
Fe'efe'e (a
> > dialect of Bamileke) in Cameroon. See
> > (full ref. there; Hartell
names her
> > sources in her book). Not sure offhand of other uses, but I thought it
> > proposed for Latin transcription of Tamashek in Mali at one point (I'll
try to
> > check later). In any event it would seem easy to confuse the latin alpha
> > the standard "a," which would seem to either require exaggerated forms
(of the
> > alpha, to clarify the difference) or limit its usefulness in practice.
> The Latin alpha is usually distinguished from the regular Latin lowercase
a by making the
> latter a 'double-storey' form, whereas the alpha is a single-storey form.
Of course, this
> means that the distinction cannot be adequately made in typefaces with a
> lowercase a, such as Futura.

I agree with you but almost all font designs make a clear distinction
between lowercase alpha (latin or greek), and lowercase a: the alpha is a
single continuous stroke, whereas the Latin letter a is almost always (in
either single-eye or double-eye forms) a closed circle/ellipse and a
tangeant vertical stroke on the right.

I was speaking about the distinction between single-eye and double eye forms
of the Latin letter a (excluding "Latin" alpha), where:
- the single-eye form is generally an x-height circle or vertical ellipse
and a x-height tangeant vertical stroke (possibly curved on the lower end to
become tangeant to the baseline to become the start of a connecting edge),
- and the double-eye form is generally an half-x-height flat ellipse and a
x-height vertical tangeant curved above the ellipse to become tangeant to
the x-height horizontal line; so it has two eyes (one closed below, one open
eye above it).

The Latin small letter alpha is always a single-eye form, but sometimes
there's a second open eye on the right of the closed eye (which should not
be a ellipse, but should present some angle on its right edge).

My question was about the distinction of letter a only, even if there are
some fonts where it will be difficult to see the difference between the
single-eye letter a and the small letter alpha.

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