Re: AW: Ligatures fi and ffi

From: Hans Aberg (
Date: Wed Jun 01 2005 - 13:54:17 CDT

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    At 20:14 +0300 2005/06/01, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
    > The use of optional ligatures cannot be reasonably
    >decided on algorithmic grounds alone. Whether you use a ligature for "fi"
    >or for "st" is a stylistic choice.

    I think that historically, the choice has in part
    been dictated so certain common combinations
    within each language, as well by the fact that
    keeping a large number of glyphs is expensive,
    and possibly cumbersome in printing.

    >If you say that ligatures would not be
    >needed at character level at all, you are saying that typographic styling
    >must be handled elsewhere.

    Right. It could be handled by a separate
    rendering character font, which could very large,
    just as the Unicode set. Or, as I pointed out,
    they could be added within the character set,
    possibly as a special type of Unicode characters.
    One can also think of developing smart fonts,
    that can compute ligatures automatically.

    >While that's surely a possible view, and shared
    >by many, it is far from self-evident.

    There are several possibilities, and one needs to
    think carefully before choosing one model over

    >Drawing lines between orthography and typography is sometimes very

    Right. Humans like to blend contexts in ways hard to transport to computers.

    >It can well be argued that in English, the letter combination
    >"ae" (in words of Greek or Latin origin) can be written as a ligature
    >with no change in meaning, as a purely stylistic matter. On the other
    >hand, in some languages, such a "ligature" is definitely a character on
    >its own.

    One should note that every ligature can be given
    a semantic use, namely by quoting it directly,
    like in the sentence 'An example of a ligature is
    "" [ligature fi]'. Perhaps textbooks in Arabic
    want to name those ligatures and different letter
    representations explicitly. Many glyphs can thus
    made into semantic objects, by simply
    objectifying them.

       Hans Aberg

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