Re: Greek Characters Duplicated as Latin (was: Sanskrit nasalized L)

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Mon, 29 Aug 2011 05:31:20 +0200

Richard Wordingham <> wrote:
> U+0278 LATIN SMALL LETTER PHI is for IPA usage, and, unlike Greek,
> always has an ascender.

For linguistic Greek usage, the two variants are considered
equivalent. This is not the case in Maths where thee two variants are
clearly distinct. That's why (La)TeX preserves a distinction between
\phi (with an ascender, in fact drawn with a separate stroke on top of
a circle, also typically used in linguistic Greek for non cursive
style of books) and \varphi (without the ascender, in fact wholy drawn
with a single self-intersecting curved stroke, also typically used in
linguistic Greek, for more cursive styles, either handwritten, or in
books even in monospaced fonts for italic styles).

Note that both variants are existing in roman/straight and
italic/slanted styles.

You'll immediately see that the variant with the ascender is not
favored in linguistic uses for the italic style, because it becomes
too much near from a slashed lowercase Greek omicron (or Latin/Cyrilic
o). You will also easily confuse it with the notation for an empty
set, so the \phi variant of LaTeX is most often avoided in most
formulas, in favor of \varphi (unless there's a real need to use both
distinctly in the same article text).

But these \phi and \varphi variants are generally not distinct, except
(once again) in some mathematical formulas that need a rich set of
variables, or need a convention to make distinction between operands
and operators, or between scalars, vectors, tensors, torsors, fields,
differentiators and so on (or between variables belonging to distinct
definition domains, or in dual sets) : the same reasons explain why
there are other similar distinctions as well for all basic Latin
letters (and digits, as well as Hebrew letters) between italic, bold,
serif, sans-serif, and monospaced styles, with additional codepoints
defined as symbols rather than letters, preserving the needed semantic
distinctions in formulas, but not needed for normal linguistic
orthographies which should always avoid these symbols.

-- Philippe.
Received on Sun Aug 28 2011 - 22:34:56 CDT

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