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Jared Benson's picture
Joined: 25 Apr 2005 - 6:41pm

I received this email recently. Can we help this person find some answers to his questions? -jb

Respected Sir

Our language Malayalam has got more than 900 unique characters. (It is one of the national languages of India, spoken by 30 million people of Kerala, the southern most state in India).

25 years ago we had cut short our mother chrs to 90 to accommodate in typewriters. Since then we followed these chrs in printing and computers.

Two years back we started a linguistic movement (non-profitable) to resurrect our lost chrs in typesetting, because our original chrs were functionally superior and aesthetically more beautiful. The movement is called RACHANA which means ‘graceful, Divine Writing’.

We designed two typefaces using Fontographer. Each typeface consists of 6 ttf files to accommodate all the 900 chrs. We programmed an editor called Rachana. With Rachana all the conjuncts can be made by combining basic keys.

Rachana is slowly spreading. So far 6 books have been published by different publishers.

Now, we would like to have your expert opinion on the following:

1) Can we accommodate all the 900 chrs in a SINGLE ttf file? I have noticed that some of the windows fonts (New times Roman, Arial, Tahoma) have more than 1500 slots. How these fonts with extended chrs are made?

2) If we are successful in making fonts with the above structure, can we use it in Adobe PageMaker? (Because 90% of the DTP centers are using this package for final layout)

3) Is the font structure of Linux based on 16 bit chr?

We would be indebted for your reply.

Thanking in anticipation,

Documentation Officer
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Kerala, India


Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am

Is the [original] Malayalam writing system in Unicode? If no, you have to make your own “standard” encoding. Are the 900 glyphs actually variants of the 90 (either contextual or aesthetic)? If so, you should consider OpenType technology. In which case, I don’t know about PageMaker or Linux, but it should be implementable through InDesign.

BTW, try these:
1. The OpenType list: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/otspec/otlist.htm
2. Qalam: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/qalam/

Anyway, great project — best wishes on preserving/reviving your culture.


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