Re: Display of Mongolian in Arabic or Hebrew documents

From: André Szabolcs Szelp (
Date: Fri Nov 23 2007 - 02:54:22 CST

  • Next message: James Kass: "Re: Display of Mongolian in Arabic or Hebrew documents"


    Peter wrote (citing freely), that not speculation from the top of our heads is relevant, but what users want.
    If we find a nontrivial number of examples, that's to be implemented, as this is the expected behaviour by users (it's expected only, if present in relevant amounts). If not, it's our duty (isn't it?) to implement it the way it serves the users best.
    Consider, that the cases where single Mongolian script words are embedded into Latin script is, the primary user is an European orientalist. In the most probable scenario, the user of inline Mongolian words in Arabic main text would be a similar one, i.e. an Arabic/Farsi etc. orientalist.

    It is my opinion, that it serves that group, if the reading direction is not changed.

    Taking as an example Latin ("when embedding Latin, you also change reading direction") is not a valid argument, as in the case of Latin it's a choice of "no change" vs. "180° change". In the case of Mongolian, it's the choice of "90° change" vs. "90° change" -- CCW or CW.

    I personally believe, that every script's glyph should be designed in their original orientation. Mongolian -- as opposed to Chinese -- is always written top-to-bottom natively. Turning the glyphs in embedding should be part of the standard, and not as someone claimed the duty of a higher protocol. You don't use a higher protocol for embedding, say, Armenian into, say, Hebrew.

    The current practice of designing Mongolian glyphs as if they were left-to-right oriented is a misbegotten solution, a compromise to the capabilities of current technology. Our aim, however, should be to create a standard, which is then adopted by technology, and not to create a standard to fit the current whims of it.
    The abovementioned current solution seems fair, for short words and for the most common Latin-centric use of the fonts. However, it's already not apt for writing Mongolian: for a native use of the fonts, even RTL oriented glyphs would be better (as long as there are not layout engines to handle vertically designed glyphs in vertical orientation): in an RTL designed Mongolian font the (native) user of it could write a document RTL in his native script (with wrong orientation on the screen), but when printed, the page can be turned, and the book bound the native-orientation-wise.
    With the current setup of the fonts this cannot be achieved.

    It should be the primary goal to create layout engines which can handle TTB Mongolian properly and the glyphs should be designed in their original orientation.

    For embedding, if no definite tradition exists, the embedding should follow the direction of the main script.

    As a note, one of the scans showed TTB Chinese with embedded Arabic turned CW, so that it would run BTT. That example is (IMHO) irrelevant, because if you look carefully, the very same document contains embedded Latin as well. It is clear, that in the case of embedding horizontal scripts (regardless of them being RTL or LTR) into vertical, the turning would be conducted into the same direction, so that those scripts retain their traditional direction in regard with each other, so that they'd feature their baselines on the same side.

    Acutally, I have an idea where I could find (if any) documents with Uighur in Arabic script mixed with Mongolian in classical script (within my reach), if such exist. I'll try to track them down.

    I've once seen a four-script dictionary: Chinese, Mongolian, Arabic (presumably Uighur language) and Tibetan. That dictionary had a unique solution, it had all the scripts in their original direction, but the layout was extrememly spacious and generous, not saving with paper or book size :-) --- it's also not a dictionary in the sense we know it; actually, more like a glossary giving one, at most two words for each main entry, probably 18th or 19th century Asian production.


    PS: We must not forget that we have to view online and current digital documents with caution (and a pinch of salt): it's those limitations current imperfect technology is posing on the Mongol script, that is shaping them. So showing a webpage or a screenshot, or a presentation what one finds is most probably not what users want or expect, but what they are able to get right now (out of the technology and the convention of designing and teating mongolian as LTR).

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