Re: Bopomofo with diacritics

From: Ed Trager (
Date: Wed Nov 19 2008 - 19:49:56 CST

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    Hi, Gerrit,

    On Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 2:32 PM, Gerrit Sangel <> wrote:
    > Hello list,
    > I am wondering if it is possible to write Bopomofo with tone marks on top
    > (like in Pinyin)? I know, they are usually written after the syllable in
    > horizontal writing, but I saw an example of a diacritic nonetheless and it is
    > is a bit more convenient.
    > In the Unicode book, it says only to use the Mandarin tone marks. The problem
    > with them is that they are spacing characters, so e.g. I would write
    > ㄍㄨㄛˊ
    > guó
    > This now has three issues:
    > 1. If I don't define a Chinese font, the tone mark is used from a latin font
    > and doesn't really look Chinese.

    Yes, it would be nice to have a Chinese font with the tone marks in a
    Chinese style.
    Have you looked at AR PL UMing / UKai fonts? :


    I don't know what they have in there for spacing/non-spacing tone
    marks ... but probably worth investigating.

    > 2. This is too wide. Because the characters are by nature a bit wider than
    > latin letters, the same syllable is wider than in Pinyin. Added to that, if I
    > write the tone mark after the syllable, it get's even longer. This is
    > especially bad for vocabulary lists or something like this, where I don't
    > want to have such a wide cell for the reading. Putting the tone mark on top,
    > would at least save one character.
    > 3. What do I do with vertical writing if I encode the characters like that? If
    > doing so, the tone mark will not get at the right of the syllable, but under
    > it. Does the application have to see that it is a Zhuyin syllable, check if
    > it is written correctly and then display it correctly (which would mean, that
    > it would need extra support for Zhuyin. I somehow guess that no application
    > will support that)?

    I don't know if it will really help you or not, but Dr. Hann-Tzong
    Wang (王漢宗教授) released a number of traditional Chinese fonts to the
    open source community under the GPL and available at The interesting part is that there
    are a couple of fonts which have zhuyin phonetics printed vertically
    right next to the hanzi glyphs.

    Here's a sample of one of the fonts, 王漢宗中楷體注音:

    So if you could use one of those fonts, it solves a lot of your
    problems. But the zhuyin is only for standard pronounciation. Doesn't
    work for archaic pronounciation -- I think even my sample image from
    the Thousand Character Classic has some "mispronounced" characters in
    it ...

    > I also used the combining diacritical marks for the spacing characters and put
    > them on top of the bopomofo characters, but the results were a bit...
    > unsatisfactory. But maybe this is the correct way and the fonts with which I
    > tested it just didn't support it?
    > Can somebody help me with this?
    > Thanks
    > Gerrit Sangel

    Best Wishes -- Ed Trager


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