qu ligature, tell me why not?

dezcom's picture

My first question is--in all Latin script languages, is the Q always followed by a U?
If this is so, then my second question is--why is there not a single QU glyph?
My third question--why would we not at least have a qu ligature as a normal part of a font?
There is no hyphenation between q and u anyway so that does not figure in. Would it just be quaint or quizical to quiery quietly or do we need a poll?

ChrisL

Miss Tiffany's picture

Show us what you think it should be? I find the st ligature to be distracting (going from memory here) and so will rarely use it. I wonder if the qu lig wouldn't be moreso?

fontime's picture

Dezcom:

Today, in Argentina some fonts are designed with "qu" Ligature.
Fontana ND and Andralis designed by Rubén Fontna are examples about this.

Eduardo

Nick Shinn's picture

why is there not a single QU glyph?

Perhaps because the type designer knows what follows the q, so can design it accordingly.
Ligatures are for where not every character combination is good, but if there's only one character combination...

dezcom's picture

This is just a kerning job and needs work to de-mu-ify it but it should start the conversation anyway.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Eduardo,
Do you have examples of those?

ChrisL

fontime's picture

In few minutes send you some examples.

Eduardo

londontype's picture

P22 Underground has a nice one. It's not surprising that the calligrapher Johnston included one in his original railway alphabet. I agree that the qu ligature is a nice touch, but probably not for all fonts.

moyogo's picture

This looks like QJ and qi ‒ qɹ or qı would be even closer but not likely. Of course these don't occur in "commercial" languages so the confusion is not very probable.

paul d hunt's picture

Iraq Iraqi NASDAQ

hrant's picture

Even "just" in English there are borrowed words (mostly from Arabic) where the "q" is not followed by a "u". But it's usually an "a", and very rarely a letter with a descender. Check out "Making the Alphabet Dance" by R Eckler for a list of words that contain every combination of two letters!

BTW, metal fonts used to offer single sorts of "Qu", but
that's because their kerns were liable to break off! :-)

> Ligatures are for where not every character combination is good

In my talk at the Thessaloniki conference in 2004
I tried to show that ligatures run deeper than that,
and I think they can run far deeper still. In fact a
ligated "qu" can arguably help reading.

hhp

dezcom's picture

The lig I posted was certainly not acceptable. Here is another quick and crude attempt which is better but still not there.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Denis is quite right in his observation. At the moment, I am more thinking of a discussion about the concept rather than my poor execution.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Since there are occurances where q is not followed by u, we cannot simply create a qu ligature and rename it "q" but perhaps it is still of value as a ligature?

Hrant, do you have any supporting data to show that ligatures of any kind increase raedability?

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Brad has crowned Miss Tiffany Queen of fonts. That is even more amusing given that Tiffany and I had a cooperative venture involving the playing card queen a while ago :-)

ChrisL

Miss Tiffany's picture

:^o I'm so NOT the queen. Eek!

dezcom's picture

Here is another try at it:

ChrisL

hrant's picture

> do you have any supporting data

Nope. Just like there's no data proving that serif fonts
have higher nominal readability, but no decent designer
will set a long book in a sans.

This idea stems from the belief that divergence (at least when
properly controlled) helps our heuristic reading mechanism
extract more meaning faster. Really, humans can handle a lot
more than 26 x 2 (+ odds & ends) symbols. If they couldn't,
the Chinese wouldn't be about to womp us. :-)

hhp

londontype's picture

Miss T. - sorry, it was just to add interest, sorta rhymed with Mary Queen of Scots. But we could take a poll...

Sebastian Nagel's picture

not to forget about such essentials as greenlandic city-names:
Ittoqqortoormiit or Qaanaaq or Qeqertarsuaq

dezcom's picture

Those are really cool names Sebilar! I wish I had a T-shirt from Ittoqqortoormiit. I would love to see the faces on people as they try to read it and wonder what kind of nut I am:-)

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I could see anopther T-shirt slogan:

"You have to be cool to be from Qeqertarsuaq"

ChrisL

Sebastian Nagel's picture

what would be ultimately cool is to print the declaration of human rights in greenlandic on a t-shirt (would need front and back i guess):

http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/esg.htm

raph's picture

Thaat's aas maannyy doouubblle letterrs aas Ii've seen in a loonngg tiime. But would the typophile version use the modern 'q' orthography or a kgreenlandic?

dezcom's picture

There are an awful lot of "plurals of..." in that list Claes :-)

ChrisL

claes's picture

my attempt(s) at a qu-ligature:

Sebastian Nagel's picture

> But would the typophile version use the modern ‘q’ orthography or a kgreenlandic?

for sure there would be an opentype alternative set :)

dezcom's picture

Claes,
Some of those examples look like butt cheeks:-)

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"for sure there would be an opentype alternative set :)"

Sebilar, I am sure it would be a contextual substitution:
if the temperature is below zero, sub Greenlandic:-)

ChrisL

fontime's picture

Hi:

The examples of "QU and qu" ligatures of Andralis - Designed by Rubén Fontana / Argentina -

et

dezcom's picture

Thanks Eduardo, I think the lowercase works well but am a bit unsure of the uppercase. Quite a nice face though.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

The UC might work better if the "U" were stemmed.

hhp

pattyfab's picture

I was going to say that obviously none of you play scrabble but then I saw Claes's link. Any dedicated scrabble player knows those words.

Tiffany may be the Queen but I am a Goddess ;-)

http://www.typophile.com/node/9573

dezcom's picture

Tiff and Patty are queens and goddesses. I am just a geezer :-)

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Devi Fabricant, you must have been the inspiration
for this: http://www.alphabetvsgoddess.com/ _
(Hey, it applies to that other thread too!)

hhp

claes's picture

Claes,
Some of those examples look like butt cheeks:-)

and yours dont?! d:

this would be a good Type Battle.

jlg4104's picture

I could be wrong, but "why not" is: you're merging two major vertical strokes. Does that happen in other (Latin) ligatures? Like a ligament, ligatures usually are fairly minimal as, um, "thingies," but serve an important function in holding two larger "thingies" together. So that's why fl, ffl, fi, etc., get ligatured -- it's across minor areas of horizontal space where they're almost already touching anyway? q and u, to be properly ligaturized, would just maybe join the q's top right serif and the u's top left. Right?

Exceptions: archaisms like AE (Æ)and OE (Œ), where the two letters are fused along long stretches of vertical stroke. I notice, though, that they're not diphthongs-- you don't say "Ay-Ee-sopp," but "Ay-sop." Not "Oh-ee-di-puss" but "Eh-di-puss." That's probably relevant.

Seems like the "why not" answer has formal/perceptual, historical, and phonological roots. Not to say it isn't worth trying, though. But if we're gonna start making lig's along big strokes, then we could conceivably have them for every possible pair of letters.

pattyfab's picture

Most of the time you see ligatures (except fi,fl etc) used with serif fonts. Since the lowercase q in a sans generally has no hook on the tail it's an uncomfortable fit with the u. I'm not a font designer but there could be something nice done with a qu lig using a serif or a serif italic. Anyone?

Kellie Strøm's picture

If the letters don't actually touch, can it still be called a ligature?
Recently I was thinking a special QU character might be handy when using all caps to give space to tuck up the tail... a rough mock-up, or muck-up!

jlg4104's picture

My understanding is that a ligature requires touching. Hence the root in Latin "ligare": "to bind." Otherwise you're just talking about tight kerning. Kerned pairs involve various overshoots and undershoots, like the QU above.

Kerning is all about bringing two letters just close enough that the positive and negative space across the pair looks balanced. The more kerned pairs (where appropriate), the more balanced a font will look along the line.(Although... Adobe can do its own metrics ("optical"), but I have yet to test a kerned-pair-less font with it...)

Notice that your Q and U would look odd if the Q was spaced further out to the left. There'd be this big white space between the two. Then again, the tight kerning only makes sense because of the Q's tail and the U being an oddball small size (small cap, lowercase, or just it's own thing).

So what you have above is a kerned pair that is more than the sum of its parts. But not a ligature! Still... if you joined the right end of the Q's tail to the end of the right side stroke of the U, then you'd have a ligature that doesn't fuse the letters in a bad way.

By the way, check out newspaper headlines-- they're often so tightly tracked that you get damn near ligatures across letters, but not intentionally.

jlg4104's picture

Oh, and the "st" ligature sometimes look distracting, I'm betting, because the modern "s" doesn't appear to have been used as the basis for the ligature, but rather the "f"-ish looking "s" of the 18th c. and earlier. The old "ft"-looking version invites that ligature much more readily than the modern "st." So the funky, oddball-looking st lig is probably a modern contrivance. See this example of the old version.

hrant's picture

> a ligature requires touching.

Ah, but what about the white?...

hhp

timd's picture

Some hot metal faces had Qu cast as one piece to accommodate long tails. I think that Kellie's sample does qualify as a ligature, after all to create it in Fontlab one would name it as an optional ligature (I think, I'm still using Fontographer) and some fi ligatures aren't actually joined, Gill Sans for example.
Tim

hrant's picture

> Some hot metal faces had Qu cast as one piece to accommodate long tails.

And those were called logotypes. The thing is, when you
think about it, aren't those in fact ligatures, in a way?

For a great example of how the blacks don't have to touch
for there to be a ligature, look at the descender area of the
superb "gy" in Mrs Eaves Italic. Talk about foreplay...

http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/emigre/mrs-eaves/just-lig-italic/win-t1/275...

hhp

timd's picture

The thing is, when you think about it, aren’t those in fact ligatures, in a way?

Exactly
Tim

Rob O. Font's picture

Qu, sure. Ligated lowercase does better to maintain all the parts and spaces. ff, fi, fl, ffl, ffi, ft, st, cr, rt, ck, and all the others I know, are successful for this reason?

"Kerning is all about bringing two letters just close enough that the positive and negative space across the pair looks balanced."

Kerning is about bringing two letters close enough that the positive and negative space within the pair looks balanced among the rest of the text...

That is to say, you can kern an LT to look perfect until its part of ALTITUDE, at which point, since you cannot get all the space you want out of the AL pair, LT might too tight.

jlg4104's picture

>Kerning is about bringing two letters close enough that the positive and negative space within the pair looks balanced among the rest of the text…

I agree but just wasn't clear enough.

In fact, I think it's an engineering marvel (but sometimes a problem!), that pairs can be formed in isolation and yet still serve the larger context of the line, paragraph, etc. Although, again, here Adobe's InDesign comes into play: I am guessing that Adobe's "optical" metrics, which substitute for the fonts built-in metrics, actually kern pairs in terms of the whole paragraph's layout, since the paragraph is the unit Adobe uses for tracking, kerning, hyphenation, etc.

As for this matter of "hey, maybe this QU can be a ligature!" I don't see the grey area (or white space, to be more accurate?) Hrant and others seem to be exploiting. I mean, of course negative space (if "white" under normal circumstances) is important. But let's not play silly semantic games for a moment: if the term "ligature" is gonna have any usefulness, it needs to refer to something specific. And I'm suggesting that it refers not to the pair of letters that are designed in one piece, and/or that may have been joined as one piece in metal, and/or that come as one glyph in modern fonts, but either (a) to the pair when joined by a specific chunk of stuff (when the letters are black, the stuff is black), or (b) the to chunk of stuff itself.

Anyway, that's my own sense of the term ligature. Otherwise, you just have pairs (or larger sets) of glyphs that happen to be real close together and happen to sometimes appear as a unit in various systems.

timd's picture

And I’m suggesting that it refers not to the pair of letters that are designed in one piece, and/or that may have been joined as one piece in metal, and/or that come as one glyph in modern fonts, but either (a) to the pair when joined by a specific chunk of stuff (when the letters are black, the stuff is black), or (b) the to chunk of stuff itself.

If we accept that the fi ligature is a ligature, one cannot then say that because a particular font, that has an altered character to form fi but doesn't join, doesn't have an fi ligature.
I would say that the alteration of a character when it encounters another specific character defines the ligature and that would include what the type designer considers the correct or optimum white/negative space, if neither character were altered then it would be a kerning pair. I suppose you could subdefine ligature as open or closed like a counter if you need that degree of specificity, however I don't see the benefit.
Tim

hrant's picture

> if the term “ligature” is gonna have any usefulness,
> it needs to refer to something specific.

I agree. But instead of the black, what about notan?

I think Tim's definition ideas are very good.

hhp

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