Question about orthography in the Cheyenne language

charles ellertson's picture

We've been sent a list of special characters to make up for a book In Sun's Likeness and Power: Cheyenne Accounts of Shield and Tipi Heraldry.

Most I can figure out, like

"capital A with right-opened half ring above"

But then we hit

"a with acute and slanted half 'c' above"

Which is clearly different that the half ring.

Anybody know what a "slanted half c" is in the Cheyenne language, or anything else, for that matter? If not a character in Unicode, then in anything? It may be *signage* as a part of the heraldry rather than a linguistic use, and I'll get up with the authors if needed, but it is going to be one of those things that will have to be done quickly (& isn't everything these days?).

david h's picture

like this:â? â -- voiceless; á -- high pitch

charles ellertson's picture


No, I know that one. I have a pencil drawing provided -- you know what that's like, basic shape only. What they've drawn is an 'a' with an acute accent, with either the half ring or "short slanted c" beside the acute. Of course, in the drawing, they exaggerated the half ring -- it is drawn to almost a "u" on it's side -- to differentiate it from the "c" (no serifs in pencil drawings). If you ask for more, they draw it again :-(

I could always make up a superior italic "c", scale it narrower, etc. etc. but it gets very tiring playing the "is it this?" game, and you always risk authors not realizing what you *can* do, so they settle for something less than ideal.

If a *typophile* knew what it should be, I'd trust that.

Thanks, though...

david h's picture

> What they've drawn is an 'a' with an acute accent...

well, this is Cheyenne; Shaiela -- people of alien speech :)

DTY's picture

I don't see such a mark combination in the Glenmore and Leman orthography. Perhaps it's meant as some sort of prosodic marker for notating song? In any case, if you're getting this from the editor at the press, I think you should probably go directly to the author(s) if possible - in my experience there's generally less miscommunication about weird glyphs in a direct dialogue, and you'll need to confirm whatever you draw with the person who knows exactly what they're trying to indicate anyway.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Ask for the reference of the requested character. There might be one, and it is important to watch it carefully. Especially with small tiny titles, they tend to get visually misinterpreted by authors.
Check online resources about that language.

kentlew's picture

Charles -- Have you tried getting in touch with Ross Mills (John Hudson's colleague at Tiro) directly? I believe he has quite a bit of experience with Native American orthographies.

Ross Mills's picture

Generally it would denote asperation and can take the form of either the half-ring (asper—it's mirrored form being lenis) or an inverted, reversed comma depending on orthography or preference. Both are in Unicode as combining marks.

charles ellertson's picture

Ross -- As I said originally, both are used in this book. If these are diacriticals, and they seem to be, the *half ring* is no problem, U+0351.

It is the *slanted half c* I wonder about. Are you suggesting this may just be the author's attempt to describe U+0314? Again as you say, usually either one or the other is used. I do not yet have the manuscript to hand, but it is expected in day, and of course, due soon thereafter.

Again, as I said, the "slanted half c" always appears to the right of an acute, and in this text, anyway, the combination occurs over A, a, i, k, o, q, s, u, and y.

I think I'm going to have to wend my way through the editor(s) to the authors, with all that entails...

John Hudson's picture

A chirographic analysis: if one has just written an acute accent, from lower left to upper right, the tendency will be to write either a following half circle or inverted reversed comma sign as a quick curved stroke back down and to the right, rather than, say, taking the time to very carefully judge the position of the top right of the half circle relative. So this will tend to produce a rotated accent in writing, but I'm with Ross in thinking that this is probably intended to be either the half circle or reversed inverted comma aspiration mark.

charles ellertson's picture

Well, I've started the long, laborious process of getting up with the authors. For those of you who don't know, the "proper channel" is to first make contact with the designer, who passes you off to the copyeditor, who passes you to the acquiring editor, who then, after several fits & starts, passes you to the authors...

(Shortcutting this is why I post these things here!)

I'm going to ramble now...

I did hear from the designer, so we're started. She's going to use Charis, to take advantage of the character compliment. It's a Charis I've reworked, so it sets well, but is not, shall we say, attractive. Not it's purpose.

I was hoping to finally have found a book that warranted purchasing Huronia, but I guess that will have to wait. Another problem is University Press budgets are awfully tight just now, and talking them into purchasing a typeface takes a lot of work -- and usually some examples of printed books.

As a typesetting firm, we were able to stir up interest in Sumner Stone's Cycles back in the days when printing was repro-negative-plate, but Sumner just never reweighted Cycles for direct-to-plate printing. While I'm pretty sure he'd let me do the work, I just never quite found the time. & when it comes to selling the presses on purchasing it, there are more alternatives to Cycles than to Huronia.

I don't think weight will be a problem with Huronia. It looks like it will print fine DPT. I just need to buy it, & use if for one of the rare projects I design as well as set. Or talk a designer into using tracings for layouts, then let us purchase it & set a book with our licensed copies. Sadly, the days when a designer can work that way are gone...

* * *
I've know of Ross Mills ever since Richard Eckersley came back from somewhere all excited after meeting Ross & discussing fonts for setting Native American languages. Richard's gone now, and I'm still waiting for an opportunity to work with Ross. One of the Native American books we do maybe, or maybe Matt Avery at Chicago will get some money in the budget. I know Matt is interested in Huronia generally, and he & Isaac Tobin are very good designers, well beyond the "up & coming" stage.

OK, I'll stop rambling & complaining now...

Thanks for everyone's help; I suspect it will come back as John & Ross said.

hrant's picture

John, I write my acute from top-right to bottom-left.
Isn't that the norm?


John Hudson's picture

I wouldn't have thought so. Rightward motion tends to have priority in the ductus of LTR scripts, especially if one knows one is subsequently going to be writing another sign to the right of the acute. It is moe efficient, and efficiency is also what is likely to produce the rotation in the second sign.

Ross Mills's picture

As you say, its really up to the authors to confirm the intent of the mark. It could be one of aspiration, or perhaps more likely for Cheyenne, one of tone—simply using a glyph form more commonly associated with aspiration, per se. That exact form of the mark is not one I recall coming across, although I have come across a superior 'c' on a few occasions. It wouldn't surprise me if it originates from a small, raised italic 'c' being used, depending on the era from which it originates. Or it could simply be an artifact of handwritten form, or something else entirely. In any case, its easily handled by mapping it as an alternate (once you establish what the most appropriate base form is [u+02BB, u+02BF, u+0314...]). I suppose it could also be related to the breve, circumflex or caron, or even one of the various forms of glottal, all of which have been used in Cheyenne orthographies. I could speculate further, but its probably pointless as the author can no doubt give a categorical answer.

charles ellertson's picture

Thanks Ross.

charles ellertson's picture

For anyone who cares -- which at this point, might not include me -- we just sent the final PDF off to the printer.

The strange "half-c" diacritic turned out to be a scribal mark used by James Mooney (1861-1921), which the "author" was trying to preserve. Of course Mooney's writings were all handwritten -- it is these writings on the subject that is being typeset, but for reasons not comprehensible to me, a few scribal forms had to be used. Author's are like that...

You know there is trouble when you find yourself making up a few new characters for the index. Maybe this is an important book, maybe not. If so, there is going to be need for an errata in the second edition...with any luck, by that time I'll have passed away.

(A grumble and aside: Next time someone wants you to set a double strikethough of just a period, think long & hard about how you're going to achieve that with 10-point type...a hint: it can be done.)

* * *

We couldn't use it for this job, but I went ahead & bought Ross Mills' Huronia. Going to try & push it with some of the designers I know who deal with what are now termed "Native American" texts. I think it will work very well; getting that font family maybe the best thing that happened with this job.

quadibloc's picture

The strange "half-c" diacritic turned out to be a scribal mark used by James Mooney (1861-1921), which the "author" was trying to preserve. Of course Mooney's writings were all handwritten -- it is these writings on the subject that is being typeset, but for reasons not comprehensible to me, a few scribal forms had to be used.

I can understand that exact preservation of the original is important in scholarly publications. However, unique scribal forms can be dealt with by describing them in footnotes; after all, if they are unique, clearly they will still need to be explained somewhere!

charles ellertson's picture

I can understand that exact preservation of the original is important in scholarly publications.

Less often than you might think. Either that, or we trivialize "scholarly" work. It's a good point, but your preaching to the choir.

Or maybe I'm the Bible thumper here...

One thing people may not know about scholarly publishing is "acquiring editor" is now a quite different job than "editor." It used to be a part-time duty of an editor, and the main challenge was to find a nice way to reject authors work -- "I'm sorry, but your manuscript does not fit our list at this time." (Unless the author's name was, say, "Samuelson"...)

Now, acquisitions should be a part of marketing -- the acquiring editor tries to convince authors to sign up with a publisher.

As with so many things, giveaways help.

"Of course, you're right, we need to include that 72-dpi picture of Adolph Hitler, no one knows what the man looked like..."

"It's wonderful that you had the stain on page 76 of J.D. Salinger's manuscript analyzed, showing that it was Lipton tea rather than Bigelow. We'll be sure find a way to include a representation of that stain in the extract when it is typeset."

To be serious for a minute, the original purpose of scholarly publishing -- at least, as a part the university -- was to publish work that was important, but aimed at such a small audience it would not be economically viable for a commercial publisher.

During the tight times in the 1980s, almost all university administrations decided their presses needed to run lower deficits. Easiest way for a press to do that was to publish more titles, and start adding works that might make money. One press, located quite close to me, published about 20-25 books a year in 1979. Now they publish close to 100 a year.

Well, all sorts of changes in all parts of the book world. Eventually, scholarly publishing may morph into something that again makes sense. Right now, the whole business looks a little too much like late night television, with commercials hawking products with limited appeal. "But wait, there's more..."

hrant's picture

Thanks for the interesting insights.


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