Accurate glyphs for Romanian diacritics

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Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
Accurate glyphs for Romanian diacritics
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I'm starting this thread at the suggestion of Nick Shinn, whose participation in the discussion I anticipate. I made the comment here that many typefaces don't support the Romanian language entirely (or rather correctly), by using improper diacritic marks for characters such as ş (and ă and ţ).

The most common mistake in found in ş. It uses a cedilla instead of a "coma" underneath it (just like a ţ).

Here is an excellent discussion on the topic, WITH EXAMPLES.

Since many of the people that participate in these forums are type designers, I just want to signal this problem. Maybe things will be better in the (not so distant) future.

I'm no expert on the subject. Just an occasionally frustrated user.

Jens Kutílek's picture
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Joined: 12 Sep 2007 - 7:55am
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An S with cedilla is needed for the Turkish language. S and T with comma accent have now their own unicode codepoints:

Ș U+0218
ș U+0219
Ț U+021A
ț U+021B

If you use these codes, the diacritics should be always correct for Romanian. Or do you see those glyphs designed incorrectly in any fonts?

Theunis de Jong's picture
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Joined: 22 Apr 2008 - 5:06pm
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The 21st century solution I've seen this far is to use the 'locl' feature in OpenType fonts, using the language tag for Romanian to automatically switch s-cedilla to s-comma.

A drawback is that your typesetting software must support OpenType and must be language-aware. So support should come from both sides -- font creators as well as software writers.

Perhaps Adam Twardoch would like to urge everyone one more time to support Polish acutes :-)

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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IMO "commaaccent" and "cedilla" look pretty much the same (especially in Modern/Didone faces) at text sizes, so why is this an issue?

Perhaps I could have made my Modern commaaccent less curly, but I tried that and it seemed to lack substance*.

.


Left: Modern treatment. Right: Garalde.

These are supported by the OpenType local feature, as Theunis explains

*I have the same problem with the Slovak caron--executing it as a weak acute crammed in apologetically just doesn't seem right.

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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Some typefaces simply don't have the s with the comma under it (not with cedilla). For example, I could not find it in Times New Roman! (in the glyph palette in InDesign at least, which should cover everything, right?).

As Theunis de Jong points out, it is a problem of both designers and software developers.

And while on this subject, the way my keyboard accesses the diacritic s is with a ceddila, not a comma (when using the Romanian language in the language bar; I use the Windows XP platform). Is there any way to get it to use the right s, to get it to point to the right "unicode slot" (not sure about terminology)?

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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@Nick Shinn,

You ask why this is an issue. When learning to write, they teach you that ş and ţ are based on the s and the t, but with a comma (the same mark for both). It becomes aesthetically displeasing to look at a s with a cedilla and a t with a comma, when you know they're supposed to be the same (it's my native language, so I admit I'm more sensitive to this than you). Furthermore, in some typefaces, the sizes (and thickness) of the cedilla and the comma differ, accentuating the difference visually. This becomes obvious in words that contain both characters. Here's an example*:

* I have to point out the Adobe Jenson has the s with a comma. I just used it to illustrate my point.

Simon Daniels's picture
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Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
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TNR - Vista and OSX Leopard versions, following the Unicode book definitions exactly...

Calibri - more sensibly redrawing the t-cedilla with a comma...

In both cases there are OpenType alternates for the "cedilla" characters

Windows users should also note this free update...

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=0ec6f335-c3de-4...

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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I appreciate that, Sii. My mistake. Do you know if there is a way to get Windows to make those symbols the default for ş? Even as I'm typing here (see left), the s is with a cedilla, not a comma. Or is it the keyboard layout...

Simon Daniels's picture
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Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
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Yes, the keyboard layout uses the "old" codepoints.

This may help... http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2006/12/11/1259767.aspx

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
+1

You are a saint, sir! Thank you.

[EDIT: You are demoted to helpful person. There is no solution to my problem on that page, except upgrading to Vista :)]

[EDIT 2: I found this by following a link from your link! With these two solutions I should be on my way... without upgrading. Maybe when Windows 7 comes around :)]

Simon Daniels's picture
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Joined: 11 Apr 2002 - 6:37pm
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Anyone would think I have a vested interest in seeing people upgrade ;-) another option might be to make your own keyboard driver using the MSKLC ...

http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2007/01/30/1557184.aspx

Beyond that, if there's an easier XP solution it will likely be on Michael's nlog somewhere.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Dan, thanks for starting the thread!

I can understand why you would object to two forms of the same accent, and that is avoided in the new Latin Extended OpenType fonts I've been making for a couple of years now, and which a lot of other foundries (not just the big computer/software corporations) are also doing. FontLab can take some of the credit for making this possible.

But moving on, can I get you to commit to stating your preference for the shape of the commaaccent?--and explaining why?
I mean, how much like a comma should it look, and how much like an acute accent? Does this vary with different type genres?
What are the preferred forms amongst the Romanian typographic cognoscenti? (Is there anything hip and indigenous, like the quirky Oldřich Menhart Czech accents?)

I realize there may not be simple answers. After all, there are variant forms of the cedille used in French, some connected to the main letter with a small "tick", and others free-standing.

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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Nick,
I am afraid I am knowledgeable enough to speak for the general public in Romania (let me correct that: the tiny minority who actually care) as to how the comma should look. But I gladly share what I do know and prefer.

I recently found a document published by the Romanian Academy, The Institute of Linguistics, that is relevant to your question. It was written in 2003. I will translate a small section here:

The letters ş, Ş, ţ, Ţ must me be both written with the diacritical mark positioned underneath, specifically a mark resembling a comma (situated at a small distance under the corresponding letters s, S, t, T), and not with a cedilla.

[Excuse the overly literal translation.]

As you can see the document says resembling a comma, but does not give further guidelines. My personal preference is for the mark to closely follow the design of the comma (in the context of the font). I should say that in certain typefaces, they are exaggeratedly large (see example above, Adobe Jenson). The heart of the issue is to have it free-standing, as you mention.

I will try to do some further research either later today or in the next couple of days. Maybe I can find additional specs.

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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I am afraid I am knowledgeable enough to speak for the general public in Romania

Obviously meant to say I am NOT knowledgeable enough...

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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Tracking

ChrisL

Steve Peter's picture
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Chris, shouldn't it be

t r a c k i n g ?

Simon Daniels's picture
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that would be...

s h e e p s h a g g i n g

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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LOL!!!

ChrisL

Steve Peter's picture
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What a Goudy remark...

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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Tracking (me too… :=)

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Sorry to keep putting you on the spot, Dan.

**

I think a lot of the problem is with applications, not fonts.
As far as the design of the commaaccent character goes, let me ask you about the typeface on the right.
It's a neo-garalde with a short descender (Pratt).


I deliberately made the commaacent resemble and harmonize with the acute accent, and NOT look like the comma in this face, because,

  1. It is an accent, whereas the comma is punctuation
  2. There wasn't enough space to fit in a comma
  3. It clearly disambiguates from the cedilla

So, to me it is logical typographic design, but is it orthographically correct that the "commaaccent" doesn't look like the comma?

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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Nick,

I tried to find any design guidelines for the commaaccent (as it pertains to Romanian), but did not succeed. I did write the Romanian Institute for Linguistics, so by next year we might get an answer ;)

As for the commaaccent in Pratt, I think it works just fine. It does not resemble the cedilla and is clearly read as an s with "comma".

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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Thanks Dan!

David Berlow's picture
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Joined: 19 Jul 2004 - 6:31pm
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"Maybe things will be better in the (not so distant) future."
The past indeed was a big part of the problem. For a long time NATO compliance drove character set decisions and Romania was not part of NATO. Later, neither a comma, or any other standard character shape worked in most fonts without using compositing technology dangerously, or adding a whole new set of S contours to add the drawn baby comma accent to. At some point in time, the 256 glyph per font problem made the cedilla look delicious, and I think that's what forced the issue for some, but I'm not sayin' who.

"I did write the Romanian Institute for Linguistics, so by next year we might get an answer"
(Even though it's all okay), now don't push on them, just say "Unless we hear otherwise from your esteemed institute, we assume it should be a cedilla." ;)

Cheers!

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Their "esteemed institute" used Comic Sans italic on the contact page... I knew right then I was wasting my time :)

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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LOL!!!

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture
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...used Comic Sans italic...

My daughter came to dinner the other day and I prepared a delicately seasoned meal, which she cut up on her plate, added tomato ketchup and a heap of grated cheese, and stirred, then complimented me profusely on my cooking. Love that girl.

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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Nick, your meal was both hot and free. In the eyes of young people, that constitutes great cooking :-)

ChrisL

Theunis de Jong's picture
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both hot and free

Now, in my eyes ... (oof!)

Matthew Stephen Stuckwisch's picture
Joined: 7 Feb 2007 - 10:21am
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Their “esteemed institute” used Comic Sans italic on the contact page... I knew right then I was wasting my time :)
I guess they saw that quickly, because when I went there I didn't see it...

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Dan Beltechi's picture
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Joined: 21 Jan 2008 - 2:35am
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@ Matthew,

Here is the link: http://lingv.ro/consultanta/index.php

Dan Beltechi's picture
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I received a response from the Romanian Institute for Linguistics: They suggest looking at the design of the comma and harmonizing the commaaccent with it.

Matthew Stephen Stuckwisch's picture
Joined: 7 Feb 2007 - 10:21am
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Ah okay, I had arrived at http://iit.iit.tuiasi.ro/philippide/ (the philology section of the Romanian Academy) and the main page of the Academy itself at http://www.academiaromana.ro/academia2002/acadrom/pag_info.htm

Somewhat boring sites but clean nonetheless.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

Florin Florea's picture
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Joined: 27 Sep 2005 - 6:49pm
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I just read the thread.

@Nick Shinn

Regarding the accent like comma for the s comma accent letter.
I think it has to "look" like the style of the font. For a serif face that "comma" is more like "sans" to me and if the font has the comma already in it and the character is called "s comma accent" I think we should use the comma and not necessarily create a new one that looks different.
It should not stick out from the text.

It is true that it is a little too big but it can be scalled about 80%. It will look like the font on the left in your sample.

The diacritics are generally used by several languages, that is true.
The french cedilla is not used in romanian language.
The only diacritics for romanian are:
a breve, a circumflex, i circumflex, s comma accent, t comma accent.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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... a little too big but it can be scalled about 80%. It will look like the font on the left in your sample.

No, it would have to be scaled down to at least 50%, and made heavier.
And then, the bold font would be even more difficult.
In a typeface with short descenders, there is not enough space for a proper comma-shaped accent.
Here's what it looks like at 50%:

This small comma accent is much weaker than the other accents, and is so small that in text sizes it doesn't look like anything in particular, just a smudge.
But perhaps that's OK. Perhaps it's the price to pay in a short-descender typeface?

Florin Florea's picture
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Joined: 27 Sep 2005 - 6:49pm
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@Nick

I see what you mean. The 50% is definitely not OK.
What about cedilla? Would it be that small also? Or other lower diacritics.
Maybe the top diacritics should change too.

I think maybe the descenders, lower line should not limit the place of diacritics.
Otherwise there is no room for them in All Caps typefaces (like Trajan), neither on top or below.

The 80% rule I use is similar to what you had in your sample.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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@Florin: ... the descenders, lower line should not limit the place of diacritics.

The test of that would be in newspaper text, for which Pratt was designed.
In an 8/9 or 9/10 setting, comma accents that hang below the descender line would get too close to ascenders in the line below.
Is that a problem in Romanian newspapers?

Florin Florea's picture
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@Nick Shinn

Sorry for the delay but I would still like to post some romanian newspaper scans.
I don't know if the type size/leading are those you mentioned but this is how it actually looks in one newspaper.

The placement of the comma accent depends on each typeface. Some are closer, some are the same size as comma.

I have tried to write some romanian text on your site using Pratt but it seems it's not working with other language letters.

Karsten Luecke's picture
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Joined: 6 Aug 2005 - 8:41am
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I tried to broaden the subject here.

Frode Bo Helland's picture
Joined: 26 Feb 2007 - 1:03pm
+1

A small addition to an old thread: Seeing as there is a ‘combining acute below’ encoded in Unicode, as well as a ‘g with acute’, I think one should take care to clearly separate the acute shape and the commaaccent shape.