Simplified Arabic

H_Afash's picture

Congratulation!! I think it will be a great group. Go ahead.

We all know "Simplified Arabic" font which came with Ms windows since the first version -I believed-.


I would like to know:
- Its designer.
- Creation year.
- Any information about it.

Thanks,

Hasan Abu Afash
www.hibastudio.com

Saad Abulhab's picture

Hassan,

Indeed, مبروك, I am happy to see a "mini forum" on Typophile to deal with all aspects of Arabic typography. This will be a nice international gathering spot.

I think "simplified" Arabic was developed early 80s for Microsoft by a Boston based firm: "Glyph Systems"

-Saad

H_Afash's picture

Saad,

Thanks for this information. But:
Who is its designer?

In Simplified Arabic font information we can read:
"Portions (C) 1990 Compugraphic Corporation. Typeface Portions (C) The Monotype Corporation plc. Data Portions (C) The Monotype Corporation plc./Type Solutions Inc. 1990-1992. All Rights Reserved."

Hasan

Saad Abulhab's picture

I think it was a digital scan of an the earlier print typeface done by Linotype in the 1950s??

-Saad

Vladimir Tamari's picture

مرحبا- I too am glad and thankful that Typophile has made this forum possible. I wonder if simpo.ttf (Simplified Arabic) was part of Windows 95. Rather I'd like to know more about the first Arabic computer fonts. Some proposals appeared in the press in the 1970s but what did the first Apple or PC Arabic fonts look like? Whoever designed them had to do a lot of work. Of course there was the photo-typesetting technology just before that, using computerised input and a monitor, so the basics of the encoding must have been already figured out. Going further back, before photo-typesetting the Arabic typewriter had long been in use, and it had a small set of glyphs . This may have been the origin of the phrase "Simplified Arabic". In any case we should salute these unknown pioneers and be thankful things have been made relatively easy for us nowadays!

H_Afash's picture

Thanks Vladimir for great information.
Saad: Maybe, but how much I would like to know its designer or the source of it.

By the way, I found Arabic characters of Arial font are similer to Simplified Arabic font.


when we looked at font information of Arial in designers feild, we found:
"Monotype Type Drawing Office - Robin Nicholas, Patricia Saunders"

So, are they the same designers of Simplifed Arabic also?

Hasan
www.hibastudio.com

John Hudson's picture

As I understand it, the concept of simplified Arabic, in which the number of variants of each letter is reduced by having isolated/final and initial/medial forms share the same glyphs, originated at Linotype in the context of adapting newspaper typesetting machines to set Arabic. Only a small number of Linotype's Arabic types followed this model (Yakout being the best known example), and it was specific to the mechanical issues involved with these machines. It is sort of funny, in a bleak way, that this technical improvisation resulted in the propagation of a new 'style' of Arabic, subsequently implemented in technologies which did not have the same limitations.

I'm not sure of the origins of the Microsoft/Monotype 'Simplified Arabic' design. It follows the same simplified model as Yakout, using different shapes. I believe it is older than the work on Arial, and was adapted for inclusion with that font from existing Monotype sources, so neither Robin Nicholas nor Patricia Saunders are likely responsible. It is the nature of a lot of things produced by the older type companies that no designer is credited.

John Hudson's picture

I mentioned this discussion to Fiona Ross, who directs us to her 2002 St Bride conference presentation on Linotype non-Latin font development:

http://stbride.org/friends/conference/twentiethcenturygraphiccommunicati...

This is what she had to say regarding the development of simplified Arabic type:

In the 1950s, the Arabic typeface design Yakout was developed. It was produced in 1956 by Linotype & Machinery for hot-metal typesetting, being specifically intended to function as a newspaper text face (dispensing with diacriticals and ligatures). With the dual intention of fitting the Arabic script onto a Linotype linecasting machine for setting type for rotary printing, and of maximizing keying speeds in creating copy for daily newspapers, much effort was concentrated on reducing the normal Arabic character set of over 100 characters. Yakout was designed in a similar manner to Arabic typewriter fonts created during this period: used a limited range of letterforms to represent the full Arabic character set. The resultant style of type design became known as 'Simplified Arabic'. The number of characters was reduced to 56, which enabled the typeface to fit into one 90-channel magazine. A brochure at the time claimed that 'the output of work may be increased by as much as 30 per cent'. Yakout was manufactured in six different point sizes and became, indeed remains, one of the most popular Arabic typefaces.

The PDF of slide images accompanying the text includes a couple of relevant illustrations.

Saad Abulhab's picture

John wrote:

>>so neither Robin Nicholas nor Patricia Saunders are likely responsible.

I agree. Also, Hassan is right about the similarity. The Arabic glyphs added to Arial following the emergence of the web are probably the same as the glyphs of Simplified Arabic. This may be true with Arabic glyphs in New Times Roman and others.

I remember dealing several times in the late 1980s with the person in Glyph Systems (in Boston) who I thought was the creator of the "Simplified Arabic", "Transparent Arabic" and "Traditional Arabic" typefaces for Windows 3.1 Arabic. His name was Steve, but I forgot his last name.

-Saad

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Thank you Hasan- this innocent question of yours has blossomed into a discussion of the roots of modern Arabic type design! Thanks Saad and John for the details you provided. Fiona Ross's pdf has a lot of interesting detail- I wonder if the Linotype sample sheet therin is available in greater resoltion?

>>>>[Yakout] type design became known as ’Simplified Arabic’. The number of characters was reduced to 56, which enabled the typeface to fit into one 90-channel magazine.>>>

Around that time I presented Monotype and Letraset with a proposal to abridge the number of glyphs needed to print Arabic using common swash-like endings for final letters like beh teh theh, and for hah kha jeeem, etc. I also obtained a patent for my idea (UK Pat. 1011006 Improvements in Printing)
http://www.ne.jp/asahi/tamari/vladimir/arabictyppatent.pdf

>>>It is sort of funny, in a bleak way, that this technical improvisation resulted in the propagation of a new ’style’ of Arabic>>>

I would not say that the trend towards what one might also call 'sans-serif' Arabic fonts was exclusively influenced by the technicalities of automated typesetting. I know well the clutter of those magnificent Linotype machines and their smell of molten lead, but the resulting text on newsprint did not appear too different from the older letter-press. Around the 1950's and 1960's there was a surge of interest in modernizing the Arab world, and the reform and simplification of printed Arabic was one important aspect. For me as an art student at the time the concern was for a modern look to the printed word (think Bauhaus and Gill Sans Serif), and that meant simplifying the outlines. The resulting abridgement of the number of glyphs needed came as an additional bonus.

>>>... subsequently implemented in technologies which did not have the same limitations>>>

Exactly, John - these days computers can 'do anything' and almost anything has being done! With all these fonts around the need for a systematic and critical appraisal of Arabic fonts is more important than ever.

John Hudson's picture

Vladimir: I would not say that the trend towards what one might also call ’sans-serif’ Arabic fonts was exclusively influenced by the technicalities of automated typesetting.

To clarify, I wasn't talking about a style of 'sans-serif', which I take to mean a kind of low contrast stroke model that is itself applicable to different kinds of letter shapes (in Arabic type as in Latin), but of simplified Arabic in the sense of using a reduced number of forms -- prompted by technical limitations -- coming to constitute a new style with its own grammar. The actual shape or contrast pattern of the letters used is in most respects accidental to the style understood as a system, i.e. the simplified Arabic system doesn't imply particular shapes, only their number and relationships. So long as the same shape can function as both isolated and final or as both initial and medial, then the system is satisfied. Historically, as you say, there was a coincidence between a cultural interest in modernisation and this technically motivated innovation, but the two are independent: altering the visual appearance of the Arabic script to make it resemble Latin sans serif types fashionably associated with modernisation does not require simplification of the structure of the script, and such simplification can be applied to letterforms that continue to carry at least some residue of the traditional ductus (as seen in Yakout).

Vladimir Tamari's picture

>>the simplified Arabic system doesn’t imply particular shapes, only their number and relationships>>
Of course John is right there. One extreme example of simplified Arabic is the campaign by Nasri Khattar whereby there is only a single unconnected glyph for each letter. Individual letters were elegantly designed but were not really what can be call sans-serif, and had ornate features. I am sure Yakout must have had a significant impact on those involved in the practicalities of type design and printing in mid-century. I still wonder if the need to develop an Arabic typewriter had provided a similar solution even earlier? A history of type in that period is given here
http://29letters.wordpress.com/2007/05/28/arabic-type-history/

piccic's picture

What a wonderful post! :=)

For me as an art student at the time the concern was for a modern look to the printed word (think Bauhaus and Gill Sans Serif), and that meant simplifying the outlines.
Vladimir, could you tell me if somewhere an attempt to design an Arabic Typeface with the "flavor" Gill Sans gave to the Latin forms (i.e. "classic proportions", partly geometric but "warm", typographically-wise, etc.)?
I am collecting what we could call Gill "migrations" in other scripts (so far I have bought Monotype's Gill Greek, I have the new Greek version of Cannibal Fonts, and thanks to Yanek Iontef, his wonderful "Erica", which is, say, "Gill Hebrew"…).
So, since I see there's such a wonderful ferment and vitality in Arabic type design of recent years, I was wondering if someone ever did something like that…

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Hello piccic
It is amazing how influencial Eric Gill's work has continued to be through the years.
Here is Pascal Zoghbi's Gill Arabic designed specifically to match Gill Sans
http://www.29letters.com/new/files/fonts.php?type=fam&id=8
I show the influence of Gill on both my Arabic and its matching Latin designs of my forthcoming font AlQuds here:
http://typophile.com/node/50960
I looked at Yanek's Erica font and of the three Gilliesque fonts mentioned above it seems to be the one closest to the original inspiration. On the other hand Gill himself designed - or advised on the production thereof? - Arabic and Hebrew fonts for Monotype at a period of his life when he worked in Jerusalem.

piccic's picture

Great. Thank you, Dan & Vladimir.
I don't know how to judge properly the design choices operated in Erica and in the Greek Gills, since my familiarity with Greek is extremely limited, and I have no familiarity at all with Hebrew and Arabic. Coming closer to other scripts through heartfelt interpretation of Latin types by native designers seems to me one of many ways to get more in touch with the wonderful letters of other alphabets…
I recall I quite liked the Gill Monotype version, but when my friend Panos sent me the new version they did at Cannibal, it seemed more "cold" to me. It's also important to actually use them, and as of now I have not had the opportunity to do so…
The work by Zoghbi looks good. I hope he will release Gill Arabic soon… :)

I had a look at your Al-Quds family and I really enjoy it. It's difficult to get good bezier curves out of pencil drawings.

On Gill: what you say is of great interest. In which sense you mean "closest to the original inspiration"? Are there any work documenting Gill's work in Jerusalem?

Many thanks for the time taken in replying… :)

P.S. You live in Tokyo: great!

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Hello piccic

Here is something about Gill working in Jerusalem at the Rockefeller Museum. I have fond memories of that very beautiful place with Gill's bas-reliefs surrounding the pool.
http://www.imj.org.il/rockefeller/eng/Gill.html
I did not actually convert my drawings into bezier curves directly, but used the drawings as a background and made new curves which I refined many times over in the past year or so. Speaking of drawings I had a chance to hold Gill's original drawing for Gill Sans at Monotype!
“closest to the original inspiration”?
I meant closest to Gill Sans in the way the verticals, curves and are constructed, connected together and proportioned. AlQuds Arabic is monoline and lacks Gill Sans' variable thickness.
Your website does not show your typographical work.
Viva Italia!

Vladimir

piccic's picture

Vladimir, wow, thank you!
Same link of Gill in Arabic: http://www.imj.org.il/rockefeller/arb/Gill.html
and Hebrew: http://www.imj.org.il/rockefeller/heb/Gill.html
I have tried to send you an email message via Typophile, don't know if it worked…

Some of my old types here: http://www.identifont.com/show?1I7
I worked very sporadically on other things for years and I just picked up recently…

What I said about your Al-Quds is from a non-Arabic viewer, but I think some modulations (esepcially in "junctions") is really needed even if you are designing a monoline. In your shoes, I'd just add some in the Latin and see how it could work for Arabic, if needed.

P.S. I just found this: http://www.oketz.com/iontef/
Here Iontef (designer of Erica) explains his design rationale behind how he infused the essence of Gill with his Hebrew letters.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Thank you Claudio (piccic) I think one can speak of a type International Style - simple outlines, no decorations or extras, that corresponds to the International Style of architecture of the the last century. You mentioned the Gill-like Hebrew, and the phenomena is also seen in many fonts, Japanese, Thai, etc. etc.

piccic's picture

I'm pretty ignorant about it, but I think the modernism movement (in design and communication) quite missed the point of what the features of "universality" should be. A delicate exploration, by trial and error, each sensibility must be taken into account, said this, no experiment is too extreme.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

...the modernism movement (in design and communication)
I think in this context the operative word is 'communication'. As type was exported from the pages of books to newspapers and TV screens and now to computers, certain constraints are imposed on the design. Marshall McLuhan's dictum "the medium is the message' applied to modern typography and one example in the 1960's was when Arabic type was simplified to adapt it to the limitations of the Linotype typesetting machines. Now of course the 'medium' is so sophisticated that almost any kind of graphic communication is possible to display and print, so we are in a new era of possibilities where 'anything goes' and statement about experimentation rings true. In the end however it is human beings, not machines, that read type, and the choice of what is right must come from what people feel most comfortable with.

piccic's picture

I don't think it was just about "constraints".

There is an idea of universality which went quite wrong, there, and it may be that it was because it was a preconceived route with not so much openness, despite the complexity of thought in Germany and other European countries.
What you say about being comfortable is related to this, since a propositive idea cannot establish what is universal by preconceived simplification. This relates also to the recognizance of universality in specificity, precisely what we lack, seeing what's happening in Gaza and situations like that, which in my ignorance I do not know appropriately, but that they show how the other is not seen as an enrichment but as an enemy.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Claudio (piccic) This thread was started by Hasan from Gaza, so it is approriate that you mention it here. See http://typophile.com/node/53068
a propositive idea cannot establish what is universal by preconceived simplification.
It depends: according Occam's Razor the simplest solution is often the best...but how you arrive there depends on the specifics of the situation. Sometimes by willfully paring down extraneous material or ideas in one step, and sometimes it happens quite naturally by invisibly small steps over a long period of time. We cannot generalize about this without giving examples. By 'constraints' I meant practical issues such as legibility, that a font for a computer should consider the pixels at small sizes, that the shapes of an alphabet meant to teach children should be easy to learn, etc. In addition such concepts as clean design by simplification may be a sort of fashion, but they have their place.

piccic's picture

That's what I meant, Vladimir.

I have said "a propositive idea", in the sense that it's not just the theoretical idea which makes the change, and I said "cannot extablish", because despite of its good solution, it must be "lived" entirely.
Modern experimentation, even if it produced results like Futura, to me, looks like it has been too much conceptual and abstract (as you say, you cannot generalize in abstraction, but I wasn't generalizing, but doubting about a specific approach which do not take into account the worldwide richness of uniquities). Maybe the incorporation of "post-modern" philosophy in this worsened the problem (I have this strong feeling, as I became disaffectioned in Emigre magazine when this happened).

Abstraction is part of analysis, but I think it should be dropped as you work, by somehow getting in communion with others.

the simplest solution is often the best... but how you arrive there depends on the specifics of the situation.
Like… hmm, say, what's happening with AlQuds? ;=)

John Hudson's picture

Vladimir: according Occam’s Razor the simplest solution is often the best

That's not actually what William of Occam said. The principle known as Occam's razor is that when faced with multiple explanations for a phenomenon none of which are testable one must give preference to that which involves the fewest assumptions external to the phenomenon.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Claudio, we probably agree about this more than our words reflect. It is so easy for us to get lost in words to describe our creative processes and attitudes to type design. This is paradoxical since type is what makes printed words possible :-) I looked up Futura and its sparse simplicity (that word again!) is something I tried to achieve in my font.

Strictly-speaking you are right, John. I was using the expression rather loosely in one of its modern variants (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor ). There is a more appropriate Arabic phrase I should have used السهل الممتنع (lit. impossibly easy). It is used to describe something that looks deceptively simple but is so perfect it is very difficult to achieve or imitate.

piccic's picture

I've sent you a link to the Italian answer to Futura.
Alessandro Butti's Semplicità, which I am studying to digitize properly… :=)

In Arabic the positive simplification seems an inspiring process, considered it involves the re-evaluation of Kufic styles.

quadibloc's picture

@John Hudson:
As I understand it, the concept of simplified Arabic, in which the number of variants of each letter is reduced by having isolated/final and initial/medial forms share the same glyphs,
Ah, this concept was used in typesetting as well. I knew that it was used on the Selectric typewriter for Arabic, and presumably on other Arabic-language typewriters as well - and, of course, on a typewriter, it probably works better than in typesetting, since a letter can overprint the join from the previous letter.

AzizMostafa's picture

Latin Typewriters had less keys than Arabic Typewriters.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KB_Arabic_Typewriter.svg
That was why Arabic was replaced with Latin in some countries?!
http://typophile.com/node/76305

quadibloc's picture

I know that I've read claims that replacing Arabic script with Latin script in Turkey helped improve literacy in that country. The argument usually given is that Latin is "more legible"; people used to the Latin alphabet think that some Hebrew letters - and many Arabic letters, at least not in their final forms - look too much alike and are hard to read.

While this seems to be valid to me, I also think that it's very easy for someone to fall into the trap of thinking that whatever he is used to must be the best.

Both the Hebrew and Arabic scripts omit vowels. This seems bad from the viewpoint of a speaker of a western language. but in Semitic languages, a lot of the vowels in a word change when one goes to a related form of the word, such as would be obtained by the simple addition of a suffix in another kind of language. So denoting the vowels by full-fledged letters in line with the consonants would make it hard to quickly see the root of a word.

In the case of the Hebrew alphabet, some consonant letters which were not applicable were instead used to represent vowels when it was used to write Yiddish, a dialect of German, an Indo-European language.

At least in the case of Urdu, also a language belonging to this family, this was not done, so there is an additional problem with the suitability of Arabic writing to the language in addition to legibility. However, Hindi is also written with the vowels as accents to the consonants, so this can't be a very big problem.

Changing from one alphabet to another is a lot of trouble, and for a small future benefit. Usually, countries don't change their mode of writing for greater efficiency. If it does happen, it is usually because of religion or politics. Thus, just as the Arabic script followed Islam, Latin script followed Roman Catholicism, Cyrillic script followed the Orthodox church, and scripts derived from Devanagari (including the Tibetan and Thai scripts) followed Hinduism and Buddhism.

Turkey, of course, is still a Muslim nation, unlike, say, Malta. But while the force was nationalist politics instead of religion, if it hadn't been for a leader who, like Russia's Tsar Nicholas, wanted the country to make a break with the past it is unlikely the change to the Latin alphabet would have taken place. I don't think that such changes could be justified by a rational calculation, except, possibly, in the case of non-alphabetic scripts.

AzizMostafa's picture

Usually, countries don't change their mode of writing for greater efficiency.
If it does happen, it is usually because of religion or politics.
-
Absolutely true!
Politicians can make the ugly look beautiful and make the beautiful look ugly?!

khalid's picture

As typographers (and typohiles), we discredit ourselves when we link Arabic script with the levels of illiteracy in the Arabic script using world. Having worked in the area of poverty for over 12 years, I know that illiteracy is the product of more serious social and economic factors. I encourage those interested in illiteracy in the Arab world, and indeed, in illiteracy in the world in general, to familiarize themselves more with Poverty issues and the Millennium Development Goals.

It is actually unfair to blame the Arabic script for illiteracy. In fact, if the Arabic script has anything do with literacy levels, it should be in a positive way for the intrinsic powers that the Arabic script has.

To start with, Arabic script might be the closest script that represents the way the language is spoken. The omission of the short vowels that are represented in the writing system as diacritics still renders Arabic text completely readable, and indeed very compact. In my blog writing, as an example, (http://arabictype.wordpress.com), I only use the Dhamma to disambiguate passive voice, and the tanween as an embellishment. An additional diacritic that I use is the shadda (which is not a short vowel). Arabic journalistic writing today does away with all three with no complaints about the clarity of meaning or the linguistic quality.
http://arabictype.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/alhawadeth.jpg

Arabic spelling is relatively easy and is somewhat forgiving. The major difficulty in Arabic spelling is probably only with the way that the hamza is represented. Writing مسئولية instead of مسؤولية does not look as silly or unprofessional (in professional writing) as spelling mistakes would be in English writing.

Arabic handwriting is close to the printed script, and the compact ruq’aa-based handwriting style is probably the ultimate in its flow and its balanced mix of catenation and separation.
http://arabictype.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/arabic-handwriting

On the readability of the Arabic script, I have to say now that I “believe” that it also very easy to read. This is mostly because of the catenation of letters, the wide variation of letter shapes, and the form of terminal letters. These characteristics contribute to easy recognition within saccades as the eyes scan the text. I am hoping to validate my “belief” with an empirical study if I could. I honestly encourage those who could afford doing legibility and readability studies to generate more knowledge in this area.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Khalid, welcome to the Typophile Arabic Typography and Type Design Special Interest Group. A group of us Arabic typographers (who were associated with the Tasmeem software fonts released by Winsoft) made a big effort to start this Group a few years ago. That was partly in response to the Matchmaking program some aspects of which threatened to take Arabic type design in the wrong direction. I find your defense of Arabic script above and in your blog encouraging and refreshing. During the past few years I was really depressed by the recent trends to Latinize Arabic typography with squared up shapes and even with serifs! This is an unhealthy trend that you have called 'touristic' in your blog. The genius of Arabic script is in its compactness and richness of forms that create unique word-shapes that are indeed helpful for legibility. In this article that published in 1971 I pointed out that in Arabic types the dots tended to become smaller and smaller at the expense of legibility. One very 'popular' (ie default) Microsoft Arabic font is scandalous in this respect with dots so tiny they might as well not be there. Nadine Chahine of Linotype was doing her PhD thesis on the legibility of Arabic type. I wonder what her conclusions will be, as she is in a position to promote Arabic typography in the right direction.

quadibloc's picture

@khalid:
As typographers (and typohiles), we discredit ourselves when we link Arabic script with the levels of illiteracy in the Arabic script using world. Having worked in the area of poverty for over 12 years, I know that illiteracy is the product of more serious social and economic factors.

Even if the common attitude of users of the Latin alphabet that Arabic has legibility problems is entirely correct, of course it is really the social and economic factors that are the primary cause of illiteracy. The example of Japan proves this.

The people who blamed China's writing system for widespread illiteracy in China were not, by doing so, claiming that it was impossible for the average person to learn to read and write in Chinese characters. They were merely claiming that, given China's poverty, learning to read and write properly with Chinese characters would not be possible given the limited amount of formal education with which China was capable of providing its citizens.

If the English-speaking countries were as poor as China was, it would be just as possible for someone to observe that the system of English spelling was such as to ensure that only the wealthy elite could afford to keep their children in school long enough to learn to spell properly.

As you note, Arabic writing is a close match to Arabic phonology. Thus, full literacy, the ability to express oneself in writing as well as to passively read, should indeed be as easy to obtain in Arabic as in Finnish or Italian, instead of as in English or Chinese.

And, of course, typewriters and even printing presses are recent inventions.

One can indeed make the claim that different letters in the Arabic alphabet are objectively hard to distinguish. If one is talking about Naksh as it is usually typeset, in forms that have been stripped down to be compatible with mechanization designed around the Latin alphabet.

Thus, in Pakistan, where the newspapers had been prepared by calligraphers instead of typesetters, because of the national preference for Nastaliq', rather than being quaintly primitive, as Westerners would assume on first impulse, they have the right idea. Preferring Nastaliq' is as rational for people in Pakistan as preferring newspapers in 8-point type instead of 6-point type is for English speakers.

Thus, if there is anything about Arabic script that promotes illiteracy, it is the fact that it is ill-suited to the hand-me-down printing and typesetting equipment from the West the Arab world has had to make do with until recently.

But "illiterate" is not the right word for a literate person whose eyesight simply cannot cope with common printed matter - although a dearth of readable printed matter certainly can contribute to real illiteracy.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

@ quadiblock "-Thus, if there is anything about Arabic script that promotes illiteracy, it is the fact that it is ill-suited to the hand-me-down printing and typesetting equipment from the West the Arab world has had to make do with until recently."

The fact that Arabic it is right-to-left is certainly a problem in some software that has not been properly programmed for that. As to more traditional methods there was no insolvable problem in metal typesetting, or typewriters, or Linotype machines that hindered the use of printed Arabic. Indeed as the example of Japan you cited shows (something like 99% literacy despite a devilishly difficult writing system) other factors are responsible for illiteracy in the Arab World. But good type design will certainly help. And bad teaching methods do not see how this poor Jordanian kid is being taught how to write the Arabic numeral nine

John Hudson's picture

Khalid: The omission of the short vowels that are represented in the writing system as diacritics still renders Arabic text completely readable, and indeed very compact.

However, one of the few things that have been determined about Arabic script through systematic empirical testing is that reading accuracy (measured in terms of fewer reversed saccades and comprehension testing) is improved when the vowel diacritics are included. This shouldn't surprise us: when more linguistic information is available, we read more accurately. The fact that mature readers are also able to read reasonably accurately when the text is not fully vocalised says more about the amazing human cognitive capacity than it does about the virtues of the script.

AzizMostafa's picture

@ Vladimir, I pointed out that in Arabic types the dots tended to become smaller and smaller at the expense of legibility.

That's why the dotted read dotless at smaller sizes. Solving this problem,
we have made it possible to change dot size independently of font size.
See the word Graphic at the bottom of this page:
http://www.maryamsoft.com/Default.aspx?Page=TopFont
That's is the exclusive virtue of Arabic script.

AzizMostafa's picture

@ Vladimir … other factors are responsible for illiteracy in the Arab World.
-
Nationalism , Democracy + deviated teachings + practices of Western-backed Rulers.
http://almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=170949&language=en

AzizMostafa's picture

@ John Hudson, The fact that mature readers are also able to read reasonably accurately when the text is not fully vocalised says more about the amazing human cognitive capacity than it does about the virtues of the script.
-
More Accurately, The fact that mature readers are also able to read reasonably accurately when the text is NOT VOCALIZED AT All* says more about the amazing human cognitive capacity than it does about the virtues of the ARABIC + JAWI script.
http://wardahadnin.blogspot.com/2011/01/pertandingan-menulis-artikel-dal...
-
* NOT VOCALIZED AT All + All Hamazs over + below Alifs are dropped.

khalid's picture

Thanks, Vladimir.

It is really exciting, and somewhat challenging, to be part of these discussions. For a small post, one has to face up to the downpour of intellect that comes in response. I hope I have the means and time to be up to it. I also think that it is an exciting time to be around in the field of Arabic Typography at large. There is so much to be done about it.

In transferring to type using Western technology, Arabic script might have not retained its original calligraphic elegance and has been adulterated with the “incompatible” system as some have commented. But the influence of this technology is inevitable, and to me it is even welcome. As a designer of Arabic type, I see my role in adapting the writing system to the new technologies, and not necessarily in a defensive or reductionist manner. There is scope for much innovation in the adaptation process and it is very possible to come out with products that are useful, relevant, and expressive of our times.

The Simplified Arabic approach seems reasonable to me. It has served its purpose in its application in metal type, and has even helped in reintroducing classical Arabic to the masses. It is still offering a viable solution for using the Arabic script in modern digital technology. Computer applications, such as Tasmeem, which try to bring in the calligraphic elegance of Arabic script, show the way to many possibilities.

>> John Hudson: “reading accuracy (measured in terms of fewer reversed saccades and comprehension testing) is improved when the vowel diacritics are included.”

The finding, in fact, does not surprise me and seems logical. However, I don’t know how that lab-controlled finding would apply to contemporary usage of printed or hand written Arabic text. Diacritics are now only used in exacting texts such as that of the Quran. Most contemporary writing is devoid of diacritic marking, and I had already cited an example of modern journalistic Arabic. But you know what, I am already visualizing that moving news subtitle on the BBC Arabic TV channel with diacritcs.

AzizMostafa's picture

@ Khalid, I see my role in adapting the writing system to the new technologies,
-
I see my role in adapting new technologies to the writing system.
http://graphics4arab.com/showthread.php?t=4515&page=1
http://graphics4arab.com/showthread.php?t=4515&page=2
http://70.32.105.174/node/48495

quadibloc's picture

@Aziz Mostafa:
Nationalism , Democracy + deviated teachings + practices of Western-backed Rulers.

That's a very strange list of problems.

Not that it is controversial that many of the rulers in the Middle East that have the support of the United States are anything but democratic.

It appears, though, that you are bringing up politics. I'm not sure what you mean by "deviated teachings". If I were confident that "true" Islam was in total opposition to terrorism, then it would be easy to see a return to true Islamic values as being beneficial.

Since the terrorists are just a very few individuals, it should be easy to see that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. What causes the confusion? Jihad is supposed to be the armed resistance of Muslims to persecution; that Muslims reserve the right to defend themselves is hardly a legitimate charge against Islam.

Why many people in the West suspect that Islam itself is part of the problem is that they are unsure whether the following things, which seem to have broad popular support in the Islamic world, and which seem to be part of Shari'a, belong in the category of "deviated teachings", or are genuinely part of Islam:

* a subordinate status for non-Muslim minorities in majority-Muslim nations. (This is a serious problem because this subordination includes reduced access to legal protection against acts of violence.)

* the use of force in response to blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. (The Miss World riots in Nigeria, or the false charges against Asia Bibi in Pakistan illustrate the problem with this.)

The reason the West supports Israel, instead of viewing its existence as a simple theft of land from the people of Palestine, is because the partition of Palestine in 1947 is believed to have been due to violence against Jews there, and it is believed that a one-state solution for Palestine would imply that the Jews would suffer persecution (specifically that a sexual assault by an Arab against a Jew would not be responded to in the same manner as a sexual assault by a Jew against an Arab: recent events in Egypt involving the Coptic Christian minority illustrate what is feared).

Is Islam compatible with the principles set forth in the First Amendment? Only if the answer can be an unequivocal "Yes!" will it not be suspected of being part of the problem.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

@Aziz Greetings. The link to Mariam software is STILL only in Persian I checked it out two years ago!! Control of dot size independently would be very interesting. BTW what happened to your flowers?

@John Greetings!

@Khalid Thanks we are probably in agreement on all issues. Your concern seems to be in combating illiteracy and indeed a simpler font would be best for the purpose. What should be avoided at all costs are the newfangled fonts in which many letters resemble each other - the dal has the same shape as the middle Ha, the meem as the middle 'Ain and so forth (trying to make Arabic look 'squarish' and with a uniform 'x-height' like Latin). In my AlQuds font one of the chief concern was to find the most common or generic form of each letter, and to maximize the difference between them, yet retain overall harmony.

@quadibloc, Aziz it is true that politics is often the root cause of social and educational problems, but it is wildly off-topic here!

AzizMostafa's picture

@ Vladimir, Greeting + Thanks with Flowers,

1. There is no point building a site in English for Off-topic reasons?!
Nevertheless, we always try to take any opportunity to appear wherever welcome:
http://ihtse.ir/ar/
http://ihtse.ir/en/
http://ihtse.ir/fa/

2. My Flowers are frozen for Off-topic reasons?!
http://typophile.com/node/51401
http://powerwordpuzzles.com/sunbursts/
http://typophile.com/files/16-petals.pdf

3.Tracking posts, you will see I never started any Off-Topic unless provoked?!

khalid's picture

Aziz,

Nice work indeed. It seems to compete headlong with Tasmeem, and one of the links you provided kind of shows the competition. But competition is usually healthy and variety is always good. Utilities like these could bring in the Arabic calligraphy touch to typography. There still seems to be some way ahead as you can see from the comparison of the Tasmeem word shaping example (right) and actual calligraphy (left) in the image below.

I have written an article on how Linotype’s Al-Harf Al-Jadeed replaced Ruq’aa in Arabic newspaper headlines (http://arabictype.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/fonts-harf-jadid). Programs such as Tasmeem and Arabic Calligrapher could probably bring Ruq’aa back in.

The calligraphic effect in typography might represent one end of the business. Arabic typography needs better solutions in a number of areas such as better fonts for body text, motion graphics, and more important for the web pages.

AzizMostafa's picture

@ Tasmeem and Arabic Calligrapher could probably bring Ruq’aa back in.
@ It seems to compete headlong with Tasmeem,
-
Compared to MAC (MaryamSoft Arabic Calligrapher), Tasmeem is useless. Why?
Tasmeem goes with InDesign ONLY. MAC is platform-independent, Elaborating:
1. MAC runs on Windows + Apple systems and goes with M$ + Adobe applications.
2. Unlike Tasmeem fonts, Texts set in MAC fonts are exchangeable. See:
http://www.maryamsoft.com/files/download/MaryamSoft%20Quranic%20Naskh.swf
3. Ruq’aa is under construction at MaryamSoft.com.
-------------
Vladimir + Khalid, contact me to get your complimentary copies of MAC with Flowers.

khalid's picture

Many thanks, Aziz. I was planning to do a review on the Arabic Calligrapher on my blog. Now I can actually use it and that would help in projecting a first-hand experience.

AzizMostafa's picture

Welcome Khalid, Please do:
1. See my shared Jawi floder + Download jawisetup.exe
2. Install it and type in your serial number: xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx
3. See the auto generated code and send it to me to get the AC:
http://www.maryamsoft.com/Default.aspx?Page=ActivationCode
Enjoy with Flowers

Vladimir Tamari's picture

@ Aziz Thank you- I will take up your kind offer soon inshallah.
@ Khalid "better fonts for body text, motion graphics, and more important for the web pages." امين Amen to that - particularly web pages I think this is a danger area for Arabic as young people hate the fonts and keyboard approaches available, and started to type online text using Latin letter and numeral substitutions

Marh7aba la3allak bixeir..etc. I am not sure of the full gamut of this ingenious but very ugly stopgap measure.

However with touch screens starting to fill the market, I have high hopes for Arabic input. The iphone and ipod etc. touch have Arabic keyboards that are a marvel in ease of use and clarity tap the aleph you get an aleph, but keep the finger or pen on it a bit longer and you get a choice of variants as in the photo.

AzizMostafa's picture

Vladimir Tamari, you have been
1. given an exclusive number for MAC,
2. linked to my share folder.
3. invited to follow the above 3 steps .
-
Congratulations with Flowers

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