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Short URL: https://scripts.sil.org/SophiaNubian

Sophia Nubian



Sophia Nubian is a sans serif, Unicode-compliant font based on the SIL Sophia (similar to Univers) typeface. Its primary purpose is to provide adequate representation for Nubian languages which use the Coptic Unicode character set. Since Nubian languages do not use casing, uppercase characters are not included in this font. A basic set of Latin glyphs is also provided. 


The following font sample uses an Old Nubian text taken from John 20:9-12 (as deciphered by BROWNE, GERALD M (1989): Literary Texts in Old Nubian; in: Beiträge zur Sudanforschung Beiheft 5, Wien-Mödling).

Click on the graphic to see large size.

Old Nubian Text (John 20:9-12)


System requirements

The Sophia Nubian fonts are designed to work on operating systems that provide support for TrueType fonts and for Unicode character encoding. This includes all 32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows®, as well as recent versions of the Mac OS (version 9.0 and later), and also some implementations of Unix / Linux. (TrueType font support on Unix and Linux may depend upon the particular applications in use.)

The system requirements describe the minimum needed to display characters. For the fonts to work properly in applications, additional requirements must be met. This font uses OpenType and Graphite smart font technologies for placement of macrons over the characters. The minimum version of Uniscribe that will work is 1.420.2600.2180 (in order for OpenType support to work correctly).


The fonts are encoded according to Unicode, so your application must support Unicode text in order to access letters other than the standard alphabet. Most Windows applications provide basic Unicode support. You will, however, need some way of entering Unicode text into your document (a  Keyman keyboard is provided as a separate download).

This font does not contain any uppercase characters in the Coptic range. This is because Nubian languages do not use "casing." If your word processor attempts to capitalize any Nubian characters, you may get square boxes. The solution to this problem is to turn off any "auto" rules for capitalization in your word processor.

The "u" vowel in Nubian is made up of two Unicode characters (U+2C9F U+2CA9). When next to each other, these characters are closer together than normal. In Microsoft Word, the characters may not always appear close enough together.

The Unicode codepoints for the macrons are: U+0304 (used for a "short" macron over a Nubian character) and U+0305 (used for the long macrons over "u"). A short macron over the "a" vowel thus has two codepoints (U+2C81 U+0304) and a long macron over the "u" vowel has four codepoints (U+2C9F U+0305 U+2CA9 U+0305).


These are some applications we've tested the font with and notes on how well they work. The font contains smart code for characters with macrons. It also contains code for the "u" (which is two Unicode codepoints) to be slightly closer together.

  • OpenOffice 2.4 and 3.0 (Windows & Linux) — Macrons and "u" spacing work fine. Must turn off casing or it will try to change to uppercase (which is not in the font)
  • Notepad — Macrons and "u" spacing work fine.
  • InDesign CS2 (ME) and CS3 — Macrons and "u" spacing work fine.
  • Firefox 3.0.3 — Macrons and "u" spacing work fine. On Windows 7 there may be some issues. Fix: Tools / Options / Content / Advanced / Tick ‘Allow pages to choose their own font...’
  • gedit (Ubuntu) — Macrons and "u" spacing work fine.
  • Toolbox — Macrons and "u" spacing work fine.
  • Word 2003 and 2007 — Macrons work fine. "u" spacing is inconsistent. If the word using "u" also contains a character using a macron then the "u" will appear correctly.
  • Word 2000 (with updated usp10.dll) — same as Word 2003
  • WordPad — same as Word 2003
  • MS Publisher 2003 and 2007 — same problems as with Word 2003, plus Publisher also does font switching for the characters in the Greek & Coptic block. Those characters are U+03E3  COPTIC SMALL LETTER SHEI, U+03E9  COPTIC SMALL LETTER HORI, U+03ED  COPTIC SMALL LETTER SHIMA and U+03EF  COPTIC SMALL LETTER DEI. At this point we do not know how to force Publisher to use Sophia Nubian for those characters.
  • IE 7-9 — No shaping for macrons or "u".


The "SIL Nubian" Keyman keyboard is now available on the Keyman website.

A  Keyboard Mapping for Linux (KMFL) keyboard is provided (as a separate download) for typing in Nubian text on Linux.


The keyboard is also available on Android. However, since most mobile devices do not have a Coptic available, this may not be very helpful for now.

Go to the PlayStore and download "Keyman". The company is also "Keyman" There are other apps that show up, but the real Keyman is first on and has the little Keyman logo. Install that.

Then install the "Nobiin (SIL Nubian)" keyboard by clicking on the little world (to the left of the space key). Click on the "+" (top right). Scroll through available keyboards and find "Nobiin". There are two ways to use it. You can type in the Keyman app and then copy and paste somewhere else, or turn Keyman into the default keyboard and then you can use SIL Nubian in any app. (If nothing shows up, it likely means there is no font available.) To make Keyman the default keyboard app click on the 3 vertical dots (top right) and select "Get Started" Check "Set Keyman as default keyboard".


This font is designed to work with either of two advanced font technologies, Graphite or OpenType. To take advantage of the advanced typographic capabilities of this font, you must be using applications that provide an adequate level of support for Graphite or OpenType.

In particular, Nubian characters with a macron over them may not form properly if your computer does not have a new version of Uniscribe. For example, in Word 2000 the Nubian characters may not form properly. The solution to this is to upgrade your version of Uniscribe (usp10.dll). The minimum version of Uniscribe that will work is 1.420.2600.2180. In Word 2000 you would need to get an appropriate version of Uniscribe and place it in this folder: C:Program FilesCommon FilesMicrosoft SharedOffice10.

Nubian characters with a macron over them are not "pre-composed" characters (in Unicode). That means if you try to move a cursor arrow forward or backward over a character with a macron you will have to move the cursor two times to go over the macron and the base character. It also means that when you try to backspace over the character, you may end up having to backspace twice.

Sometimes characters may not display perfectly on the screen, but they should display better when printed. We have attempted to address the most severe "hinting" issues, but we are certain there will still be some display problems. On Windows machines, one way to clear up some of the display problems is to use ClearType. Right-click on your desktop, choose Properties / Appearance, select  Effects...  and under Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts choose ClearType. In Microsoft Word and Firefox this gives a distinct improvement to the display of the font.

Supported character ranges

C0 Controls and Basic Latin U+0020..U+007E
C1 Controls and Latin-1 Supplement U+00A0..U+00FF
Latin Extended-A U+0131, U+014B, U+0152..U+0153, U+0160..U+0161, U+0178, U+017D..U+017E
Latin Extended-B U+0192, U+01C1
IPA Extensions U+0251, U+0254, U+0259, U+025B, U+025F, U+0261, U+0272, U+027E, U+0283, U+0292, U+02A4, U+02A7
Spacing Modifier Letters U+02C6..U+02C7, U+02D0, U+02D8..U+02DD
Combining Diacritical Marks U+0304, U+0305, U+0308
Greek and Coptic U+03A9, U+03C0, U+03DB, U+03E3, U+03E9, U+03ED, U+03EF
General Punctuation U+2013..U+2014, U+2018..U+201A, U+201C..U+201E, U+2020..U+2022, U+2026, U+2030, U+2039..U+203A, U+2044
Currency Symbols U+20AC
Letterlike Symbols U+2122, U+2126
Mathematical Operators U+2202, U+2206, U+220F, U+2211, U+2219..U+221A, U+221E, U+222B, U+2248, U+2260, U+2264..U+2265
Geometric Shapes U+25CA
Coptic U+2C81, U+2C83, U+2C85, U+2C87, U+2C89, U+2C8B, U+2C8D, U+2C8F, U+2C91, U+2C93, U+2C95, U+2C97, U+2C99, U+2C9B, U+2C9D, U+2C9F, U+2CA1, U+2CA3, U+2CA5, U+2CA7, U+2CA9, U+2CAB, U+2CAD, U+2CAF, U+2CB1, U+2CC9, U+2CDD, U+2CDF, U+2CE1, U+2CE3
Alphabetic Presentation Forms U+FB01..U+FB02

Supported character ranges


Sophia Nubian is released under the SIL Open Font License (OFL), version 1.1. Copyright (c) 1994-2008 SIL International ( http://www.sil.org/), with Reserved Font Names "SIL" and "Sophia".

Download and Installation

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If you wish to receive announcements about updates to Sophia Nubian, or any of our SIL fonts, please go to this page to subscribe: SIL Font News subscription.

Sophia Nubian 1.0 (fonts only) - Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux
Lorna A. Priest, 2008-10-13
Download "SN1.0.zip", ZIP archive, 186KB [9245 downloads]

The font release contains a set of four font files and documentation. You will need a decompression utility to expand the .zip archive. The font files can then be installed using standard font installation procedures for the given operating-system platform. See Decompression Utilities, Downloading & Font Installation Tips for more information.

Note that certain applications may not see the new font immediately. You may have to quit and restart the application for the font to become available.
Sophia Nubian 1.0 (fonts only) - Windows installer
Lorna A. Priest, 2008-10-13
Download "SN1.0.exe", Windows application, 249KB [4908 downloads]
This package contains the same files as SN1.0.zip. This self-extractor is only for Windows users. Once the package has been downloaded, you can double-click on it to install the font files and documentation. After installing, you can read the documentation files at Start / All programs / SIL / Fonts / SophiaNubian. Note that certain applications may not see the new font immediately. You may have to quit and restart the application for the font to become available.
Ubuntu repository on packages.sil.org Installation Instructions
Ubuntu software repository This font is available in the SIL software repository for Ubuntu on  http://packages.sil.org. Ubuntu users can subscribe to this software repository and get current versions and updates automatically. See the  detailed instructions about adding the repository.
Sophia Nubian 1.0 (fonts & sources) - Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux
Lorna A. Priest, 2008-10-13
Download "SN1.0Src.zip", ZIP archive, 325KB [2465 downloads]

The source and font release includes the same files as SN1.0.zip plus the FontLab, VOLT and Graphite source files. No instructions for building the fonts are included; however batch files are included which were used for creating the released fonts (1) voltbat.bat, 2) GRcreateSN.bat, and 3) Opt.bat). Rebuilding the fonts are dependent on having FontLab,  VOLT, Graphite, hackos2,  cachett and fastfont.

If you are uncertain what to do with a .zip file, see Decompression Utilities, Downloading & Font Installation Tips.
Nubian KMFL Keyboard - Debian package, GNU/Linux
Lorna A. Priest, 2009-11-15
Download "kmfl-keyboard-nubian_1.0.1-1ubuntu1_all.deb", Debian Linux Package, 12KB [1985 downloads]

This keyboard uses Keyboard Mapping for Linux (KMFL):  http://kmfl.sourceforge.net/. You can just double-click the .deb file to begin the installation of the keyboard package. The keyboard layout is available in the readme.htm file. It uses the same source file as the Keyman Keyboard. The keystrokes for both packages are the same.

This is only a keyboard; it does not contain fonts. You must download and install the fonts separately.

This keyboard and documentation is copyright ©2008-2009 by SIL International. It is distributed under the X11 free software license; see SIL International X11-style License for more information.


This package has recently been updated. Only the documentation was updated, not the keyboard itself. The keystroke for U+2CA9  COPTIC SMALL LETTER UA has been changed to reflect the correct keystroke of "Y" and "Y=" for U+2CA9 and U+2CA9+U+0304 respectively.

Data Conversion
Nubian TECkit maps
Lorna A. Priest, 2008-08-05
Download "NubianMaps1.0.zip", ZIP archive, 12KB [1948 downloads]
Compiled and uncompiled TECkit conversion tables are included here, which map data using the Nobiin,  Ibrim, Nubian(Dr. Mokhtar) and Nubian(Mokhtar.M&H & Kashef.H) fonts to Unicode. These maps can be used with either TECkit and/or SILConverters 4.0. They have been minimally tested.


As these fonts and utilities are distributed at no cost, we are unable to provide a commercial level of personal technical support. We will, however, try to resolve problems that are reported to us.

We do hope that you will report problems so they can be addressed in future releases. Even if you are not having any specific problems, but have an idea on how this system could be improved, we want to hear your ideas and suggestions.

Please note that these fonts are intended for use by experienced computer users. Installing and using these fonts is not a trivial matter. The most effective technical support is usually provided by an experienced computer user who can personally sit down with you at your computer to troubleshoot the problem.

General troubleshooting information, including frequently asked questions, can be found in the documentation. Additional information is also available on the general Font FAQ page. If that fails to answer your question you can contact us at:

User Support
SIL International
Writing Systems Technology
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
Dallas, TX 75236

Email: Contact Form

Page History

2009-05-01 Updated Keyman package

2008-12-02 Uploaded Debian packages

2008-11-25 Release of font

© 2003-2019 SIL International, all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted elsewhere on this page.
Provided by SIL's Writing Systems Technology team (formerly known as NRSI). Contact us here.