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NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems

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Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/AfrGlyphVars

More Questions About African Characters and Variants

Peter Constable, 2003-03-14

In Variants for Hooktop Y, I raise questions regarding which variants of this upper- / lower-case pair of characters are used by what user communities. In a response, Don Osborn provided a link to a Web page that showed  charts of the African Reference Alphabet, produced at a conference in Niamey in 1978. These charts raised some new questions regarding variants of other characters.

If you can provide any information on any of these items, I'd invite you to do so using the response mechanism at the bottom of this page. Your input would be appreciated.

Capital Eth

Unicode has characters for upper- and lower-case eth:

  • U+00D0 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER ETH
  • U+00F0 LATIN SMALL LETTER ETH

The following images show the typeforms used as representative glyphs in the Unicode code charts:

U+00D0 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER ETH

U+00F0 LATIN SMALL LETTER ETH



The charts of the African Reference Alphabet use a different typeform for the capital that looks somewhat like a large, squared version of the lowercase:

Large-, squared-lowercase form of capital eth



Apart from any question as to whether the two uppercase forms are different enough to warrent two characters be encoded in Unicode, I'd like to know which of these is in actual use by what user communities.

Serifed and Serif-less I

The charts for the African Reference Alphabet show two kinds of "i": serifed and serif-less:

Serifed and serif-less \"i\"



For type designers, this is a somewhat problematic distinction since serifs are usually very typeface dependent, and don't really lend themselves to being used for this purpose. (For instance, what should the serif-less "I" look like in an oldstyle-serif or modern design, or in a fixed-width font?)

The lowercase serifed-i is supported in Unicode as U+026A LATIN LETTER SMALL CAPITAL I, as this is used in phonetic transcription, but there is no uppercase counterpart in Unicode.

I'd like to find out whether both of these pairs are actually used by any user community for the writing system of a single language.

Hooktop T

Unicode has characters for upper- and lower-case hooktop t:

  • U+01AC LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH HOOK
  • U+01AD LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH HOOK

The following images show the typeforms used as representative glyphs in the Unicode code charts:

U+01AC LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH HOOK

U+01AD LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH HOOK



The charts for the African Reference Alphabet use a different typeform for the uppercase that has the hook on the right:

Right-hook form of U+01AC



I'd like to find out which of these is in actual use by what user communities.

Hooktop Z

The charts for the African Reference Alphabet show an upper- and lower-case pair for hooktop z:

Hooktop uppercase z

Hooktop lowercase z



These are not encoded in Unicode, and I have received no indication from SIL field workers that these are needed for language projects with which SIL has some involvement.

I'd like to find out whether these are actually in use and, if so, for what language(s).

Uppercase Ezh

Unicode has characters for upper- and lower-case ezh:

  • U+01B7 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EZH
  • U+0292 LATIN SMALL LETTER EZH

The following images show the typeforms used as representative glyphs in the Unicode code charts:

U+01B7 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EZH

U+0292 LATIN SMALL LETTER EZH



The charts of the African Reference Alphabet use a different typeform for the capital that looks like a reversed capital sigma:

Reversed-sigma form of capital ezh



Apart from any question as to whether the two uppercase forms are different enough to warrent two characters be encoded in Unicode, I'd like to know which of these is in actual use by what user communities. I seem to recall one of our overseas computer-support people telling that the reversed-sigma form is used in Ghana, but I need to confirm this.



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 Reply
"Don Osborn", Sat, Mar 15, 2003 01:06 (CST) [modified by peterc on Fri, May 9, 2003 22:22 (CDT)]

hooktop-z & eth

Note re the African Reference Alphabet as rendered in the English and French versions of the Niamey 1978 report: there are some relatively minor differences between the two as I summarized on the a12n-collaboration working group.

Of particular note for your questions, the hooktop z does not appear in the French version (in fact there are 57 characters not counting accents/apostrophes in the English version and 56 in the French, with this being the only discrepancy). All that said, there is no explanation of the difference.

The eth issue seems a bit complicated as apparently three(?) upper case forms are similar. I start to lose track as I go through this, even with the help of Indrek\'s ever-useful letter database. See:

 http://www.eki.ee/letter/chardata.cgi?ucode=00D0

 http://www.eki.ee/letter/chardata.cgi?ucode=0110

 http://www.eki.ee/letter/chardata.cgi?ucode=0189

... where it is noted:“Note: 00D0 ETH (Icelandic) is different to 0110 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER D WITH STROKE (used in Croatian/Slovenian and Sami) and different to 0189 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER AFRICAN D (African languages)”

Apparently the squared larger form of the lower case eth is just an attempt to differentiate between the two since if the eth is used in Africa, both it and the d with tail U+0256 have the same uppercase? (Ref.  http://www.eki.ee/letter/chardata.cgi?ucode=0256). All that said, I have no indication of which languages in Africa use this letter.

 Reply
"David Rowe", Sat, Mar 15, 2003 12:35 (CST)

ezh forms

I believe that the first capital ezh form (large version of lower case rather than reversed sigma) is in use for Aja in Benin. (BTW, in the past the Aja in Togo used \'zh\' for this sound, though there are efforts underway for standardisation.) I have not seen the reversed sigma form.

 Reply
"Don Osborn", Sat, Mar 15, 2003 13:23 (CST) [modified by peterc on Fri, May 9, 2003 22:23 (CDT)]

Hooktop z again

A quick note re the z with hook. In doing a long overdue revision of the presentation of the report of the Bamako 1966 conference, I note that a z with a hook to the left was proposed for Tamashek.

See  http://www.bisharat.net/Documents/Bamako1966.htm under Chapitre II, C. Tamasheq, I. Consonnes, 4 Consonnes emphatiques, b. crossées. There\'s a small image to the right of the hooked d and t that I need to do more work on with a rendition of hooked s and hooked z. I believe these are represented in current Latin based orthographies of Mali and Niger by dot under characters.

The same hooked z character appears in the table for Tamashek from the report (not yet on the site), but it appears that there the hook is to the right like what you see in the Niamey 1978 alphabet. Not sure what happened to it or the hooked s after 1966, but what you see in the Niamey 1978 alphabet is likely related.

In the report original, modified characters were indicated generally by hand drawn extensions on typed letters, or in some cases where no typed letter had a similar form (adaptable base form), they were simply inserted by hand. In general the intended form is clear.

 Reply
peterc, Mon, Mar 17, 2003 02:39 (CST)

Re: Hooktop z again

In looking at fonts teams in Niger have used for Tamashek, they have lots of dotted forms, but not the hooked z.

 Reply
"Don Osborn", Sun, Aug 17, 2003 16:14 (CDT) [modified by martinpk on Sun, Aug 17, 2003 16:28 (CDT)]

Re: Hooktop z again

Just to follow up: The table with the other form of hooked-z is up now at  http://www.bisharat.net/Documents/Bko66TamasheqTableau.html. The letter form is made with a typed letter modified by pen on what I presume to have been a stencil (I scanned a photocopy).

 Reply
peterc, Mon, Mar 17, 2003 01:12 (CST) [modified by peterc on Fri, May 9, 2003 22:18 (CDT)]

Some additional info

I discovered a few things in looking through some fonts used in SIL projects in West Africa:

Capital eth:

None of the fonts I looked at contained the large-, squared-lowercase form of eth.

Hooktop t: I’ve encountered this in fonts from Senegal and Niger. In the Senegal fonts, the capital has the hook on the left, but in the Niger fonts, the capital has the hook on the right.

Hooktop z: I found this in a font used in Niger! I’m trying to find out what these have been used for.

Ezh: David Rowe mentioned recalling that the large-lowercase from of capital was used for a language in Togo. I did find this form in SIL fonts used in Togo. On the other hand, I found the reversed-sima form in SIL fonts used in Ghana.

 Reply
"Don Osborn", Sun, May 11, 2003 16:26 (CDT)

Re: Some additional info

Peter - Any info on the use of the hooked z in the Nigerien font you found?

 Reply
"peterc", Mon, May 12, 2003 08:36 (CDT) [modified by peterc on Mon, May 12, 2003 09:00 (CDT)]

Re: Some additional info

I was told that the font in question had been created for use in a government-related project, but when I inquired about this particular character, the person I had contact with didn’t know anything about it.

 Reply
"Paul David Johnson", Mon, Mar 17, 2003 18:52 (CST)

African Characters

In Ghana, the Reversed-sigma is used in Dagbani as the capital of SMALL LETTER EZH but the CAPITAL LETTER EZH is not used. So Reversed-sigma is a variant typeform of the capital ezh. I cannot remember - and I am no longer in Ghana - but I think one other language uses ezh witht he Reversed-sigma as the capital form. As far as I know, the CAPITAL LETTER EZH form is not used in any language there.

The small letter eth looks like SMALL LETTER ETH and not the square lower case form shown in this page.

 Reply
"Don Osborn", Mon, May 5, 2003 18:25 (CDT) [modified by peterc on Mon, May 5, 2003 18:42 (CDT)]

Hooked T in pre ISO 6438

A 1979 document \"Coded Character Set for African Languages\" that from appearances is a forerunner to the ISO 6438 African character set shows the capital hooked-T with the hook on the left. There is no indication of how the characters in the chart or their form were identified. See  http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/ISO-IR/039.pdf.

A more recent version of ISO 6438 with virtually the same glyphs is at  http://anubis.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/open/02n3129.pdf.

The glyph forms in ISO 6438 were of course incorporated into ISO 10646 / Unicode.

Thanks to Eric Rasmussen for these references.

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