Creating bilingual fonts - Unifon
Author: Ruth Bennett
Date: July August, 1989
Keywords: writing language Indian font
Text: Macintosh attracts users because of its graphics capacity. One of the outstanding graphic features that the Macintosh has had since its inception in l985 is not the most obvious. In the days before video graphics, Macintosh had its unusual graphics capability, displayed in features such as its font-building capacity. A variety of fonts may be installed on the Macintosh, and these fonts can be used interchangeably. One can switch fonts within a text, for example, or one can change fonts in outline fashion, or create more interesting formatting. The font-building capacity is essential for the user who works with non-English languages. A problem can arise with the non-English language font when one is working with both English and a non-English language. The non-English fonts may be cumbersome because of the time it takes to switch to the English language font. If one is typing in more than one language, one may have to switch fonts with each language shift. If one is doing translations, and particularly literal translations, one must switch fonts each time one shifts languages. This may occur several times ineach sentence, with a method of transcription that alternates from word-to-word with an English, then a non-English word. Whether one uses the mouse and the menu, or a keyboard function key, switching interrupts the flow of typing and therefore the flow of thought. In addition, the physical movements take up time. Switch fonts several times can significantly lengthen the time it takes to type a document. A solution, worked out with the American Indian languages of Yurok, Karuk, Tolowa and Hupa, is to create bilingual fonts. These languages have been recorded in a phonetic orthography called Unifon. The Unifon orthography is based on the capital letters of English. In designing bilingual fonts, I arranged the Unifon symbols and the English language symbols on the same font. Since the American Indian language orthography is primary, I put the capital letters of English and the additional Unifon symbols on the free keyboard position, moving the lower case letters of English to the Caps Lock position. The table on this page illustrates the use of the bilingual Unifon/English font with Microsoft File, and suggests the number of shifts from one orthography to another involved in work with two languages. In the table, three orthographies are in use: the English language orthography, the Yurok Unifon orthography and the International Phonetics Association orthography. The IPA orthography, as I have designed it, uses English language symbols with a different match of symbol to sound than English uses. This element in the design is another feature contributing to ease of typing. For the Unifon font, however, enough symbols differ from English that it became necessary to create changes in the English language font. The Unifon symbols occupy the free keyboard position. The Unifon phonetic font has 42 symbols, with the majority of the Unifon font the same as the capital letters of English. The Unifon orthography was created with the capital letters and the numbers were replaced with additional Unifon symbols. The free keyboard position is used for Unifon, with the assumption that the Yurok Unifon is the primary orthography when it is used. The English language small letters were shifted to the Caps Lock position. The numbers replaced by Unifon symbols on the free keyboard position were shifted to the Shift position. The fonts for each of the languages of Yurok, Karuk, Tolowa and Hupa, therefore, have two orthographies installed within the same keyboard set. There are three orthographies if one counts the IPA orthography, and this was accomplished by selecting IPA symbols that concur with the English language orthography. The result is that the shift from the English to the non-English orthography is contained within one font, thus saving the typist the time it takes to shift fonts. As not all orthographies share symbols with the English language, my solution may not be practical to others who are working with non-English languages. I hope to be helpful for this purpose by encouraging Macintosh users to develop bilingual fonts and by suggesting some basic considerations. In designing a bilingual font, there are certain questions to answer. The first concerns. where to place the non-English language symbols.
There are two options: ONE. Symbols can be added to the English language fonts on lesser-used keys. TWO. Symbols can be placed on the lesser-used levels of the keyboard, such as Cap-Lock, Option or Shift/Option. The first option is more practical when the non-English language orthography does not vary too much from the English. Diacritics that are added using the Option and Option/Shift keys on the standard Macintosh SE keyboard, make it possible to type German, French and Spanish. (See Janet Spinas-Cunningham, ''Parlez-vous Macintosh? Tips on How to Get the Right 'Accents,''' Known Users, May, l989. For fonts where a greater number of symbols vary from English, making it impractical to add symbols to the English-language keyboard, one must free up one or more keyboard levels in order to to place the entire set of orthographic symbols on the same level. Another keyboard level can be used for English. Any number of software types produce bilingual materials with the bilingual fonts. I have used Microsoft Word, Microsoft File, Fullpaint, Hypercard and others. The software for creating bilingual fonts is Altsys' Fontastic +. Fonts are designed and arranged on this program, and moved, with the Font/DA Mover, into the system or stored on a disk with the Font/DA Mover.
Copyright © july august, 1989 by Ruth Bennett