Greek Polytonic Small Caps: is it worth doing?

Yulia's picture

Hello Everybody!
I'm making polytonic greek in my font and thinking of small caps. In Greek fonts I saw monotonic small caps only, but Adobe Arno Pro has polytonic small capitals. I wonder if there a need for polytonic small caps? Does anybody in Greece use Arno Pro's ones? And if there other fonts that have it? Is it worth doing in a venetian typeface?
Thank you in advance!

Andreas Stötzner's picture

I don’t think it’s useful. Never seen.
Capitals in polytonic editing are left without the accents and marks.
The same would apply to the small caps.

Jens Kutilek's picture

FF Elementa has them: http://www.fontshop.com/fonts/singles/fontfont/ff_elementa_pro_regular/?...

But it has to be one of the most obscure features, Greek polytonic small caps in a typewriter face ... ;)

Yulia's picture

Thanks for your answers! Yes, they look a bit strange in this kind of type, but maybe some clients asked the author to make polytonic small caps... Anyhow, we don't know the reason why he included it.

John Hudson's picture

I've made them, and will continue to do so. Smallcaps have been used at times to emulate square uncial letters in the transcription of ancient manuscripts.

With regard to Andreas' comment re. dropping of accent and breathing marks in all-caps (and hence smallcaps) settings, it should be noted that this is a recent convention. If you look at Greek language publishing from before the mid-19th Century, you'll see plenty of all-cap settings with marks in place above the letters. The placement of marks to the left of uppercase letters in mixed case, which led to their being dropped in all-caps, is also a recent development. It is the modern standard, but I've yet to find examples of it prior to the 19th Century; prior to that, marks were placed above capitals (the Byzantine norm), or even to the right of them in widely spaced all-caps settings.

It should also be noted that the rules for marks in all-caps settings according to the modern convention is not so straightforward as simply removing them all, because there are circumstances in which a dialytika must be added to a cap Iota or Ypsilon to preserve correct vowel pronunciation.

Yulia's picture

Thank you, John, I didn't know about emulating uncial letters in transcription of ancient manuscripts. I've made archaic letters to enable the font for classic literature setting, and then I think polytonic small caps could be useful too. It would be interesting to see some examples of capitals with marks placed above.
In Arno Pro the accents are placed above the small caps. Is it a rule? John, do you place the accents above or in the left of small caps?

John Hudson's picture

Yulia, here is a famous example of polytonic Greek small capitals, which I think it is a good guide to their appearance and use.

In Arno Pro the accents are placed above the small caps. Is it a rule? John, do you place the accents above or in the left of small caps?

Above. Then I use OpenType Contextual Alternates substitutions to suppress marks in both all-caps and small-caps settings, following the modern convention, which allows users to turn that feature off and display marks if they desire.

See also: http://typophile.com/node/15982
(but note that was 2005, some recommendations or software support issues may have changed since then)

Yulia's picture

Thank you for the answer and good example! I think It's useful to give user a choice between marked and unmarked all-caps and small-caps settings.

Yulia's picture

I'm trying now to make calt feature for removing accents in all-caps setting, and as i could understand from the thread http://typophile.com/node/15982, there should be dialytika over Iota in all-caps setting in the pairs αι ει οι υι αυ ευ ου if the first letter in the pair has oxya or tonos. I wrote calt for monotonic and it works.
John, could you also explain how will it be for polytonic? Will the letters which have only tonos (oxya) or both tonos (oxya) and breathings (like uni1F0A, uni1F0B, uni1F0B, uni1F0C...) follow that rule?

John Hudson's picture

Basically, in any of those pairs if there is any mark on the first letter, then the second letter should get a dialytika when the mark is suppressed in all-caps/smallcaps. Since the convention of Greek diphthongs is that the marks are always written on the second letter, you know that if the mark is written on the first then you are dealing with something other than a diphthong, so the dialytika will apply. If you've got your monotonic lookup working with the tonos, then it should be simple to extend the context to cover the other marks.

Yulia's picture

Thank you for your answer! Do I understand right that marks are oxia, varia and perispomeni and their combinations with breathings (dasia and oxia, dasia and varia, dasia and perispomeni, psili and oxia, psili and varia, psili and perispomeni) and every letter with these marks adds dialytika over Iota and Upsilon? And we don't add dialytica if there is only a breathing (dasia, psili) without a mark?
And one more question: Should the upper case letters with lower-case iota (like uni1F88, uni1F89) in all-caps setting change this iota for upper case or small capital Iota? I show bellow how my calt works for pairs with Alpha, is it correct?

John Hudson's picture

Given that the convention for diphthongs is that any mark sits on the second letter, then I think it makes sense that if the mark -- even a breathing mark -- is on the first letter than this is not a diphthong, so the dialytika would apply.

Yes, re. the mute iota. Some typefaces use a slightly shorter ‘prosgegrammeni’ (adscript iota) for allcaps and smallcaps, but that is a stylistic choice.

Yulia's picture

Thank you a lot! Now it's clear that I should also add dialytika after the glyphs with breathings:) And how should it work for a situation when a user switches off calt to get all-caps or small caps setting with accents: should the accents stay the same (i mean without any contextual alternates) or should dialityka also be added for Iota and Upsilon (maybe by switching on some stylistic set) in the pairs like in calt?
John, could you also tell about greek ligatures: are there any special rules how the letters with or without accents change their behavior when connected? I would like to make some ligatures, but i'm afraid to mistake, especially with accents. Can any letters be combined or are there any restrictions about it (maybe historical ones)?

John Hudson's picture

And how should it work for a situation when a user switches off calt to get all-caps or small caps setting with accents: should the accents stay the same (i mean without any contextual alternates) or should dialityka also be added for Iota and Upsilon (maybe by switching on some stylistic set) in the pairs like in calt?

No, you don't need the dialytika in this situation, because the presence of the marks on the first vowel letter is sufficient to indicate that the pair is not a diphthong. The dialytika is only necessary when the other marks have disappeared.

Ligatures is a whole new topic. Basically, you have three options:

1. create ligature glyphs that include marks and have these form for sequences of letters and marks;

2. allow letter ligatures to form regardless of the presence of a mark (set the OTL lookup process marks flag to NONE) and then apply marks to component letters of a ligature using GPOS anchor attachments;

3. prevent letter ligature formation when marks are involved (set the OTL lookup process marks flag to ALL; probably also include post-sequence mark context to prevent ligation, although you could take a following mark and position it on the last component or above a diphthong ligature such as the traditional omicron_upsilon form).

Note that any combination of these options could be used in a font. For example, you may find that some horizontally laid out ligatures will adapt well to approach 1 or 2, while some of the funkier Byzantine ligatures like the omicron_sigma really can't and should not form when marks are involved.

Yulia's picture

Thank you! I have one more question: when we have an all-cap setting with accents
(calt is off) should we remove accents from letters with mute iota (for example uni1F88) when changing mute iota for capital Iota or should it remain with accents and changed capital Iota?
And about ligatures: when saying about GPOS anchor attachments do you mean GPOS LookupType 5 (Mark-to-Ligature attachment positioning) in a mark feature? I have never written it, but Adobe OpenType Feature File Specification says that this LookupType is currently not implemented... I tried to implement an example from this Specification in my font to understand how it works, but Fontlab couldn't compile it and wrote: syntax error at "mark". Does Fontlab support mark feature?
Maybe it would be easier to create ligature glyphs that include marks.

And do i understand right that there is an accent over the last letter in the diphthong ligature like in an unconnected diphthong pair? Does it mean that all the unconnected letters and letter pairs with accents keep their accents when they are in ligatures too?
Could you please write other Byzantine ligatures which can't form with marks?
Do i understand right that any glyphs can form a ligature and the exception is for Byzantine ligatures which can't form with marks?

quadibloc's picture

I'm inclined to say "go for it". Since polytonic Greek accents are used with ordinary capital letters, then, if small capitals are used in Greek text written in a polytonic fashion, it would seem as though it would be unnatural for the accents not to be available there.

The only question remaining, though, is if small capitals are used in Greek typography at all. That, to me, would be the only issue. If Greek typography does not make use of small capitals, then having them in a Greek typeface is not really appropriate.

But if small capitals have a place, since polytonic script is actually in fairly common use even now, despite not being the normal standard for modern texts, I would think that providing the accents for the small capitals is a very sensible thing to do.

John Hudson's picture

Yulia, you'll need to do some of your own research on Byzantine cursive ligation. This is a complex topic, and I don't have resources in digital form that I can easily share with you. But here are some things to head you in the right direction:

When Greek ligatures fell out of fashion in the 19th Century, some people made an effort to document them for the benefit of typesetters who may be called upon to re-set Greek text that featured ligatures. So if you look at e.g. William Savage's Dictionary of the art of printing (1841) you will find a table of Greek ligatures with corresponding unligated forms (pp.300-301). I have a reprint edition of this book from 1966. There is a similar but shorter table in Théotiste Lefevre's Guide pratique du compositeur et de l'imprimeur typographes (1855; reprinted 1999).

I strongly recommend that you take a look at Enschedé and Carter's Typefounddries in the Netherlands, which contains tables of two different sizes of Granjon Greek types with somewhat different ligature sets. These are important. What I find interesting is that the smaller size type has more ligatures that the larger size. Having looked at the way in which these different sizes were used in books, I've come to the conclusion that the ligatures were valued for space saving, and hence there are more of them in the smaller font that was used for foot and marginal notes in tight spaces.

And do i understand right that there is an accent over the last letter in the diphthong ligature like in an unconnected diphthong pair? Does it mean that all the unconnected letters and letter pairs with accents keep their accents when they are in ligatures too?

Yes. Ligation never suppresses accents. Note that some combinations of letters have more than one possible ligature form, and some forms are better suited to carrying accents than others.

Yulia's picture

John and quadibloc, thanks for your useful comments! I've been away for three weeks and there wasn't an internet, so I'm glad to read them now:)
I'll try to make a research on old greek ligatures when i find enough of sources. I've seen some digitized greek manuscripts online from British Library and they have a lot of ligatures. I could use some manuscript ligature forms in my type, but they look rather archaic and maybe it makes sense to have them as a discretionary ones (off by default). Here are examples:


Many ligatures here are with subscript forms written above like pi_epsilon.
I understand that historical forms are needed for an appropriate archaic setting,
but does contemporary greek use ligatures? In nowadays types that i saw there are just several historical ligatures.
I'd also like to make some ligatures to improve letter spacing in pairs like sigma_tau, and i have a question: can greek ligatures have forms different from historical ones?
I mean wouldn't it look strange if I make a ligature of my own form or only historical ones are in use?

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