NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems
IPA Transcription with SIL Fonts
SIL International has produced several font sets over the years that allow for the transcription of linguistic data using the International Phonetic Alphabet. These fonts are:
In general, SIL recommends the use of the Unicode-encoded fonts. The older, “legacy” fonts were designed to work with text in a custom 8-bit encoding, not a recognized character encoding standard, and required changing fonts when switching between normal text and IPA transcription. With Unicode-encoded fonts, the user can produce both normal text and IPA transcription with a single font. In addition, Unicode provides cross-platform compatibility. There were built-in incompatibilities between Windows and Mac versions of the legacy fonts, whereas Unicode has been adopted as a standard for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. Using Unicode fonts:
Having said that, there are certain special cases that may warrant the use of the legacy fonts:
Below, we provide a brief discussion of the issues related to the use of each of the above-mentioned fonts. The best option for publication-quality typesetting is Charis SIL.
Font Home Pages
Charis SIL Home Page — Charis SIL is a Unicode-encoded serif font. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The latest version also contains the newly-adopted symbol for the labiodental flap. It includes the characters in the SIL Private Use Area. It has built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics are properly placed. It contains all four typefaces (regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic). This is the font that SIL recommends using for publication-quality typesetting. SIL plans to continue developing Charis SIL in the future.
Doulos SIL Home Page — Doulos SIL is a Unicode-encoded serif font similar to Times New Roman. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The latest version also contains the newly-adopted symbol for the labiodental flap. It includes the characters in the SIL Private Use Area. It has built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics are properly placed. At present, it only contains the regular typeface; bold, italic, and bold-italic are not available. SIL plans to continue developing Doulos SIL in the future, for the regular typeface only.
Gentium Home Page — Gentium Plus is a Unicode-encoded font designed by SIL member Victor Gaultney. At the moment, it includes regular and italic typefaces, but not bold or bold-italic. Besides containing all the character and “smart-font” capabilities in Doulos SIL and Charis SIL, it also supports both ancient and modern Greek. SIL plans to continue developing Gentium in the future.
Andika Home Page — Andika is a sans serif, Unicode-compliant font designed especially for literacy use, taking into account the needs of beginning readers. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Currently Andika only includes a regular typeface. There are plans for future development of bold and italic.
The Microsoft font Arial Unicode MS is a Unicode-enabled font that is very similar to Sophia. It includes the International Phonetic Alphabet characters. It does not, however, include bold, italic, or bold-italic typefaces, nor does it have built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics may not be properly placed.
SIL IPA93 2.0 Home Page — SIL IPA93 (sometimes referred to as the SIL IPA Encore fonts) encodes the version of the International Phonetic Alphabet adopted in 1993 (and revised slightly in 1996). The font set includes three type faces: Doulos (similar to Times New Roman), Sophia (similar to Univers), and Manuscript (monospace). These fonts include regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic typefaces, allowing for near-publication quality typesetting. SIL has not produced a Unicode-encoded version of Sophia or Manuscript (but see “Doulos SIL” above). There are no plans for further development of the SIL IPA93 font set.
SIL IPA 1.2 Home Page — SIL IPA encodes the version of the International Phonetic Alphabet adopted at the 1989 Kiel convention. The font set includes three type faces: Doulos (similar to Times New Roman), Sophia (similar to Univers), and Manuscript (monospace). These fonts do not include bold, italic, or bold-italic typefaces. In addition, this version of the IPA has been superceded by a revision done in 1993. SIL no longer recommends the use of this font set. There are no plans for further development of the SIL IPA font set.Frequently Asked Questions about the SIL IPA and SIL IPA93 (legacy) fonts
The SIL Encore IPA and SIL IPA93 fonts are obsolete, symbol-encoded fonts. Their use is discouraged. If you decide to download and use these fonts, please note there is no user support for these fonts.
Other IPA Resources
IPA Unicode codepoints
The official IPA site does not currently give us the Unicode codepoints for the official IPA (although the newest verion of “The IPA Handbook” ( IPA Handbook) does have the Unicode codepoints listed in the back). There are several places you can check for this information. Try
IPA Unicode Keyboards
IPA Unicode Keyboards
IPA Character Picker Utility
Unicode character pickers — Pickers allow you to quickly create phrases in a script by clicking on Unicode characters arranged in a way that aids their identification. The phrase appears at the bottom of the screen and you can easily cut and paste the result into your own document. Pickers are likely to be most useful if you don't know a script well enough to use the native keyboard. The arrangement of characters also makes it much more useable than a regular character map utility.
IPA Typing Assistant
http://www.palsoftwaredesigns.com/ITA.htm — The IPA Typing Assistant is a simple utility designed to help input characters from the International Phonetic Alphabet into your computer programs. The IPA Typing Assistant uses an easy to use on-screen display to assist you in the selection of your desired character.
Conversion to Unicode
SIL IPA93 Data
SIL IPA (1990)
A mapping file for converting SIL IPA (1990) data to Unicode is available here.
Amer Phon SILDoulos font
A mapping file for converting Amer Phon SILDoulos data to Unicode is available here.
IPA-SAM phonetic fonts
A mapping file for converting IPA-SAM phonetic data to Unicode is available here.
Pitch Contours and Tone in Unicode
This document gives an overview of most of the ways you can mark tone in Unicode. It also outlines the encoding and implementation of the 9-level pitch contours which were added to our SIL Unicode Roman fonts (Doulos SIL and Charis SIL) and in the SIL IPA keyboards.
How do I encode...?
Incorrect Behavior of
SIL legacy fonts in Word 97/2000/2002/2003 – FAQ
SIL IPA and SIL IPA93 (legacy)
fonts – FAQ
Use of SIL IPA/IPA93/Greek/Hebrew
Fonts In Web Browsers – FAQ
2007-05-30 LP: added link to PitchContours document
2007-03-02 LP: added link to IPA-SAM map
2006-10-13 SH: added warning under legacy fonts
2006-03-10 LP: added link to IPA93 FAQ
2006-02-20 LP: fixed references to beta fonts
2005-11-23 LP: added link to labiodental flap
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