American Indian / Native American language fonts

cardinal's picture

Through the search, I've found one very useful discussion on this topic,
which is now 3 years old. http://typophile.com/node/16467

It seems that the task was started, but when I search for these fonts (for purchase/for use) I am having trouble locating them.
I am also very interested in designing a few different fonts for these languages, beginning specifically with Ojibwe.

I am culling my research to hopefully write a grant to begin work on this. I appreciate all help the typophiles can provide!
cardinal

Si_Daniels's picture

Might want to drop Ross Mills a mail.

Cheers, Si

Thomas Phinney's picture

Andrea, drop me a line as well.

typerror's picture

You may want to explore Zapf's effort in the 70's with Chief Sequoya's alphabet of the Cherokee Indians (Native Americans).

I believe it was a Walbaum derivative cut by Walter Hamady with Zapf.

Michael

jselig's picture

Depending on the languages you are looking for, you can ask John Hudson here as well. He's done some work on First Nations languages.

will powers's picture

Andrea:

Check in with me some time re Ojibwe and Dakota/Lakota.

william.powers@mnhs.org

powers

cardinal's picture

Thanks everyone! this is fantastic! Will be in touch soon.

Right now I am interning (in exhibitions, as a graphic designer) at the National Museum of the American Indian in NY and am shocked that even in our library, we have so few examples of Native written languages. Most translations are phonetic anglicizations, which are helpful for me to pronounce (but not really!), but are absolutely ugly when compared to the Native syllabary.

ps. I think the Cherokee font is one of the most developed, but the applications I've seen of it (probably not Zapf's!) are obv. roman character driven and therefore, leave something to be desired.

Thomas Phinney's picture

What do you mean by "the Native syllabary"? Sequoyah's Cherokee syllabary? I'm unaware of any singular and universal native American writing system developed by native Americans. (Even Sequoyah's system is clearly Latin-inspired.)

Of course, I'm no expert in this area, and would love to be enlightened.

My earlier comment about getting in touch offline was based primarily on assuming that you were looking at Latin-based systems of transcribing native languages. Even these have a very limited number of decent typefaces available....

Regards,

T

charles ellertson's picture

Thomas

I don't think it is so much a matter of fonts, but a matter of software -- either in the font or in the applications programs. All my experience comes from typesetting books with some of these languages, primarily Apache, Kiowa, Lakota, Navajo, and just a little with Nahuatl, Maya, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal, Tabasco Chontal, Purepecha, Sierra Zapoteco, Isthmus Zapoteco, Mazateco, Ñahñu, Totonaco, and Huichol.

As far as I know, none of these languages had a written form other than using the Latin alphabet. The problem is the various orthographies, some dating back to people working long before laptop computers (e.g., Ella Deloria & Lakota), who would use marks easy to make with a pencil (dots at various places, for example; hard to typeset). Later, the problem was to adapt to the typewriter & to some extent print, so other marks were used -- sometimes needing a touch-up with a pen if you were limited to the typewriter.

Even here, there was no standardization across languages -- even ones with common roots, like Navajo, Apache, Kiowa, etc. (Athabaskan roots) so a nasalized vowel in one might be signaled by an ogonek, but with a macron below or underline in another. Long vowels can be denoted by doubling, or by a macron. Etc.

All these can be made up for any font, and it is much easier now with OpenType. The problem is that the Unicode Consortium will not encode new characters which contain only additional diacritics already encoded, but most fonts do not have the needed routines in any ccmp or mark feature so the characters can be easily accessed.

As to Cherokee, it is a bit political. The (at least Eastern) Cherokee have an official font; that it looks like a 1890s newspaper headline font doesn't bother them. There is some interest in making a font out of Sequoia's hand-written version of the syllabary, and it would make a nice script. Not too many Cherokees read or write Cherokee, so there is some movement to make it easier to learn by simplifying the syllabary -- by removing about half of it. The Cherokee are split on that one. Moreover, the few people at the Cherokee Museum who write Cherokee use the Linguist Software system predating Unicode, back when there were both PC and Mac formats (they use PC).

These are transitional times; we are moving from what could be easily rendered on a typewriter, or the old 126-character fonts, to what can be rendered with the possibilities with Unicode & applications programs that support it.

FWIW

Thomas Phinney's picture

Charles,

I'm confused. In your first pararaph you say that fonts aren't the problem, but it seems to me that in your fourth paragraph you are saying the opposite.

These days, InDesign and the Windows version of MS Office support OpenType mark attachment and 'ccmp', so I don't see app support as being a major barrier (though support in Mac Office would be nice - it isn't there yet, is it?).

BTW, I've looked at the free (and official?) Cherokee font that's available. It's utter junk in both design and execution. Bizarrely irregular stroke weights, sidebearings chosen by rolling dice, extrema often ignored in point placement, non-Euclidean geometry of curves (oops, read too much H.P. Lovecraft!).... yes, I exaggerate, but only a little.

Cheers,

T

Thomas Phinney's picture

Hmmm, it seems there are several Cherokee fonts available, all with pretty generic names like "Cherokee" making them hard to tell apart,

My scathing words above apply to the 1993 Cherokee font by Joseph LoCicero IV.

The 2005 official font by the Cherokee Nation and Tonia Williams, which I had looked at long ago, is not *as* bad, but still pretty awful. It can't decide whether it's monoline or if it's high-contrast Didone. No overshoots for the rounds. Inconsistent stroke weights. Inconsistent stress. Spacing needs to be thrown out and redone, because it's useless. But at least there are points at extrema.

If they're going to go to the trouble of providing keyboard drivers and such, you'd think they would/could use the proper encoding.

Cheers,

T

charles ellertson's picture

I’m confused. In your first pararaph you say that fonts aren’t the problem, but it seems to me that in your fourth paragraph you are saying the opposite.

Sorry, I wasn't clear. Or precise . . . or both.

When I said "I don't think we need new fonts," I should have said I don't think we need new typefaces. I don't think there is anything wrong with setting Native American languages in Arno, or Quadraat, or any good font for the text. You shouldn't pick a font to try and make the text "look Native American" -- certainly not at the expense of that text. (I once worked with a designer who didn't want to use a "European looking" font for Lakota, so she picked Goudy Sans. Far as I'm concerned, that doesn't look good for anything.)

While the typefaces may be OK, the fonts aren't. If you don't use OpenType, you have to used hacked fonts. And even if you do use OpenType, you have to make up either characters or features; probably both. As it happens, I spent the afternoon working on Arno, so as to use it for a text with Nahuatl.

But typesetting isn't the only or most important issue. Unless there are text editors that allow the needed characters to be typed relatively easily and to appear close to correct, no one who writes will use them. I know one author who uses an ancient WordPerfect system because his manuscripts look better that way. Never mind that converting these files for typesetting is an hair-pulling, expensive chore.

And while Omniglot & Wikipedia & etc. don't get the details of Native American languages quite right, this just points up the problem. Nasalized vowels in Kiowa really shouldn't be underlined, they should have macrons below. The glottal stop in Apache is an apostrophe, but it is a "typographer" apostrophe (U+2019), not a ASCII apostrophe. Etc.

I'll allow that's a semi-elitist viewpoint. At some level, if people use underlines and ASCII apostrophes because they are there and relatively easy to use, maybe that will become the preferred orthography.

My guess is something like this is what's happening with Cherokee. The Cherokee Museum already owns, and will continue to use MS Word on a PC. For them, the cost of just one copy of InDesign would mean not doing something else, and I would guess they feel the time needed to learn InDesign would probably be better spent on something else as well. They have already bought Linguist Software Cherokee (hacked Type 1 font), and have learned to use it. Why change? Upgrades cost money. Most material isn't "typeset" anyway. (I'll not comment on the Official Cherokee font, though if you look at Signs of Cherokee Culture: Sequoyah's Syllabary in Eastern Cherokee Life you will notice that the Cherokee not supplied as art was set in a different typeface.)

So, there is this tension between those of us who care for the aesthetic presentation and those who are trying to increase the use -- hence ease of use -- of these languages.

Chris_Harvey's picture

If your interested in Ojibway fonts (and Native language fonts/keyboard layouts in general), have a look at http://www.languagegeek.com

Chris

kholvn's picture

Hey! I'm new to the board but if I may just say that back in the early to mid ninties, there was a man who developed a font for the Mac and it was so easy to use. All you had to do was type in the phonics and it would come up in Cherokee syllabary. It was the best! I believe that the western Cherokees now have something like this for the PC. I'm not sure if this helps any at all but I thought I'd just let you know.

paul d hunt's picture

Jim Rimmer's Canadian Syllabics

It really is a shame that there are so few fonts for these languages. I am including support for Diné Bizaad (Navajo) in my typeface I am currently working on, and it is next to impossible to find any Diné text online. Of course some of this is due to the fact that it is such a little-spoken language. But I'm afraid that the lack of fonts compounds the problem of the language not being used more in print.

Tom Gewecke's picture

Navajo just requires Latin script, so I don't see how lack of fonts could be a significant issue with that language. Also I think it is by far the most widely spoken native american language (probably over 100,000). The reason you don't see much text is due to the extremely low literacy rate in it, and perhaps also a certain cultural lack of interest. One example is

http://nv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Íiyisíí_Naaltsoos

charles ellertson's picture

Navajo requires vowels with ogoneks. You might be amazed at how many fonts lack these -- Also, in the Wikipedia page you reference, the glottal stop is signaled by an ASCII apostrophe. Far be it from to tell Navajo's they are wrong, but the usual orthography for Navajo & most other Native American languages is the "typographer's" apostrophe, AKA raised comma (U+2019).

Note that Omniglot gets it wrong, too:

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/apache.htm

At first glance on the Omniglot site, one might think that U+0027 is correct; then you notice that Omniglot uses 0027 for an apostrophe everywhere.

Does it matter? Well, probably. In Polynesian, the glottal stop is signaled by U+2018. I've also seen proposals that the apostrophe not be used for a glottal stop, since it is confusing -- and of course, in every case, that's where 0027 is used for the apostrophe.

FWIW

Tom Gewecke's picture

If you look more closely at the Navajo wikipedia page, you will see that it uses a mixture of 0027 and 02BC. The latter is what is used in the English Wikipedia page on the Navajo Language. I'm not sure that the Navajo Nation has ever decided what is correct, but I think in any case you would want to avoid any "punctuation" mark to represent an actual character, and 02BC seems reasonable to me.

Navajo's requirement for ogoneks makes it no more disadvantaged with respect to fonts than Polish and Lithuanian. How great is that?

paul d hunt's picture

Navajo requires ogoneks with acute marks, including O/o with ogonek, which are found rarely in any fonts. These characters could be composed if combining accents are supplied in the font (also found in few fonts), but using these would require sophisticated software, unless the typeface includes OpenType programming to do this for the user automatically (which is supported by few applications). Even the Wikipedia page you linked to has the problem of using the dotted iogonek together with the acute mark, unacceptable typography in my book. Native peoples deserve good type options as well.

charles ellertson's picture

Paul is right. For some reason, O,o w/ ogoneks are found in Latin Extended B, and few fonts seems to include characters from this. I'm not sure whether or not the acute w/ ogonek are in Latin Extended additional, but few fonts have these, either.

If you are making fonts, it is valuable to think in terms of what languages your fonts can cover. Just a few extra glyphs get you Yoruba, transliterated Arabic, transliterated Devanagari & Tamil, and of course, some of the Native American written forms. You need not fill out all of Latin B & Extended additional to pick up the glyphs needed of a number of languages.

For OpenType application, using ccmp is one way to provide for Latin characters with diacriticals not precomposed in Unicode.

But until there is general support for these languages in both ordinary text editors & web fonts, the Native American languages will remain a problem.

My $0.02

Thomas Phinney's picture

@Charles Ellertson:

The fundamental problem is that there are a *lot* of Latin-based languages which need "just a few extra glyphs."

Personally, I'd think Yoruba and Pilipino/Tagalog would seem to be high on the list for easy languages to cover that are not covered by, say, WGL-4. At least by sheer number of speakers....

(I'll be blogging on the general topic of extended Latin and drafts of future Adobe character sets shortly, btw.)

Cheers,

T

Tom Gewecke's picture

It's all relative, but neither combining combining diacritics nor o-ogoneks seem terribly rare to me. My OS X comes with about a dozen fonts that contain the latter. I wonder what the comparable figure is for Vista?

Since the characters with ogonek plus acute are never going to be in Unicode in precomposed form, the quality of their display will inevitably depend on the smarts of the local software. As pointed out, having both a dot and an acute on an i is not at all good. A work-around for this with some fonts may be to encode the character as i-acute plus combining ogonek rather than vice-versa.

But no doubt a font designed specifically to display these things perfectly is the best solution. I'd welcome a chance to test Paul's font with my Navajo keyboard layouts when it is available.

paul d hunt's picture

Tom, i can send you beta versions. Contact me off list: paul(a)pilcrowtype(dot)com

cuttlefish's picture

I have included the Cherokee syllabary in my Agamemnon project. Those forms are based on what I could divine as correct from the "official" font, the Plantagenet Cherokee font included with Mac OS X, and a faded low resolution scan I somehow located of Sequoiyah's handwritten script. I would appreciate anyone with any degree of expertise commenting on it.

I have also covered a broad assortment of "rare" accented characters in the Latin alphabet. I have no idea if this is adequate for any Native American language, but some may have got caught up by chance.

charles ellertson's picture

Greetings, all: This is Barbara Williams, spouse of Charles E, who's allowing me a brief post under his log-in. We worked last year with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian on their publication of the first Cherokee translation of contemporary fiction: "Removal: A novel" by Charles Frazier.

http://www.cherokeemuseum.org/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_C...

We considered using Plantagenet, but in the end chose Laser Cherokee, in part due to some variant forms in Plantagenet that traditionalists were not comfortable with. Feel free to write to me directly about this: As I understand matters, the glyphs in the "official" syllabary are under some review right now, in part due to discovery of some documents dating from the time of Sequoia. I'm not an expert, but could refer you to some folks who are. barbara[at]bwabooks[dot]com.

hrant's picture

> I think the Cherokee font is one of the most developed, but the applications
> I’ve seen of it (probably not Zapf’s!) are obv. roman character driven and
> therefore, leave something to be desired.

Indeed.
FYI, Zapf's design is like that. Which is not really surprising,
considering Zapf has lauded Van Krimpen's jingoistic Greek fonts.

hhp

kholvn's picture

You may already know this but the original syllabary that Sequoyah developed was totally different than what is used today. The symbols were simplified for the printing press. The original writing system is hardly known today. I, for one, wish we would go back to the original but I'm afraid it's too late. The current writing system is too common for that.

kholvn's picture

You may already know this but the original syllabary that Sequoyah developed was totally different than what is used today. The symbols were simplified for the printing press. The original writing system is hardly known today. I, for one, wish we would go back to the original but I'm afraid it's too late. The current writing system is too common for that.

hrant's picture

1) How centralized is the current Sequoyah tribal leadership?
2) Does the Sequoyah tribe harbor strong concerns about gradually losing its identity?

hhp

kholvn's picture

Let me just say this. There are three Bands of the Cherokee people. (there is not a sequoyah tribe nor was he ever a chief) There is the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees In Oklahoma (of which I am a full blood member) - The Eastern Band of Cherokees (in North Carolina) - and The Cherokee Nation (in Oklahoma). Although there are three bands (three separate nations or governments) we are all the same people of the same blood. Of the three, the Keetoowahs are the more traditional band. More of our people speak, read and write our language. In fact, I'm a teacher of our language among other things. The Eastern Band, those around Cherokee, NC, speak a little differently than those who live in the west but we can still understand one another. In all three Bands, we have instituted programs and cultural camps to teach our youth the traditions, culture and language. We don't use the word preserve when we refer to our customs and traditions. We rather use perpetuate. In the shadow of main stream society, we are fighting hard to keep our traditions in tact and ongoing. Unfortunately, we are very aware of losing our identity which is why we incorporated these programs and other courses of action to teach the youth the various facets of our ways of life.

As I mentioned: I'm a teacher of our language but I am also a member of the Seven Clans of the Fire Camp Committee and a founding member of the Turtle Island Liars Club. As a teacher, I hold classes in the community on speaking, reading and writing our language (using the current version of the syllabary). Other teachers have classes in the public school system while others hold classes at some of the universities in Northeastern Oklahoma. Seven Clans of the Fire holds three camps a year to teach the crafts, traditions and customs of our people to the youth and anyone else who wants to learn the real culture of the Cherokee people. The Turtle Island Liars Club in a loose association of traditional storytellers of the Keetoowah and Cherokee people. We hold storytelling nights every few months to pass on the stories of our people.

So... all in all, we are very active in passing our culture down to our children and grandchildren.

kholvn's picture

Let me just say this. There are three Bands of the Cherokee people. (there is not a sequoyah tribe nor was he ever a chief) There is the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees In Oklahoma (of which I am a full blood member) - The Eastern Band of Cherokees (in North Carolina) - and The Cherokee Nation (in Oklahoma). Although there are three bands (three separate nations or governments) we are all the same people of the same blood. Of the three, the Keetoowahs are the more traditional band. More of our people speak, read and write our language. In fact, I'm a teacher of our language among other things. The Eastern Band, those around Cherokee, NC, speak a little differently than those who live in the west but we can still understand one another. In all three Bands, we have instituted programs and cultural camps to teach our youth the traditions, culture and language. We don't use the word preserve when we refer to our customs and traditions. We rather use perpetuate. In the shadow of main stream society, we are fighting hard to keep our traditions in tact and ongoing. Unfortunately, we are very aware of losing our identity which is why we incorporated these programs and other courses of action to teach the youth the various facets of our ways of life.

As I mentioned: I'm a teacher of our language but I am also a member of the Seven Clans of the Fire Camp Committee and a founding member of the Turtle Island Liars Club. As a teacher, I hold classes in the community on speaking, reading and writing our language (using the current version of the syllabary). Other teachers have classes in the public school system while others hold classes at some of the universities in Northeastern Oklahoma. Seven Clans of the Fire holds three camps a year to teach the crafts, traditions and customs of our people to the youth and anyone else who wants to learn the real culture of the Cherokee people. The Turtle Island Liars Club in a loose association of traditional storytellers of the Keetoowah and Cherokee people. We hold storytelling nights every few months to pass on the stories of our people.

So... all in all, we are very active in passing our culture down to our children and grandchildren.

hrant's picture

Thank you for the education.

> We don’t use the word preserve when we refer to our
> customs and traditions. We rather use perpetuate.

Nice.

> we are very aware of losing our identity

It's the same with us Armenians (even though your genocide was even worse than ours) since more than 60% of our population lives outside Armenia. It's a struggle ingrained.

--

As I've stated in lectures and articles, a script can either serve to perpetuate a culture or it can serve to assimilate it, the latter if it slowly becomes transformed* to resemble the dominant mainstream culture. This has been happening to many alphabets (not least Armenian for one) and I call it Latinization. And just like perpetuating spoken language we need to worry about perpetuating written language.

* Or sometimes if it's created to be like that; see Vietnamese, the Carmen Miranda of writing systems.

It seems to me that there's a case to be made for breaking with the Zapf-style Latinized Cherokee, and either reverting to the original form you mention (which I would be very interested to see, especially in a side-by-side comparison with the current form) or making something from scratch, or something in between.

hhp

cuttlefish's picture

I wish I could remember the site where I got these; they're from some website relating to the Cherokee language. It feels important to share them here. They're going to be too wide for the column here, but the individual letters are rather small.

The first is a sample of the Cherokee syllabary, showing the handwritten forms followed by an early draft of the more familiar typeset forms. They are written in pairs, divided by a vertical zigzag bar.

It is quite sad that the handwritten script is largely unknown today. It is quite beautiful. It would be nice to see it in a longer text as opposed to this letter-by-letter display.

I also came across this scan of a Cherokee number system.

guifa's picture

Damn, I really like that cursive form. It's much prettier than the printed forms.

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

Ross Mills's picture

re: American Indian / Native American language fonts

I have a couple of pan-American typefaces in production at the moment which aim to support all North American (along with most European) languages: Huronia and Plantagenet Novus. I can not say when either will be publicly released, as development on these is slower then I should like, as they have no specific financial backing. A basic beta specimen for Huronia can be found by following the beta link on tiro.com/fonts. In developing these, I am also working on a character/glyph set specification which will be released in some form at the same time as the font(s).

As far as the Cherokee script is concerned, it is a bit too complicated to jam into a single post all the issues, but it is an interesting typographic challenge. There are many presumptions from within and without regarding reader's expectations. The 'original' cursive form would be interesting to approach as a design issue, but before engaging in that experiment I am unconvinced that it would work as a fully functional script. Not only are there probable issues in how it would work technically, there is also the issue of how easy it would be to learn. These perceived problems are no doubt behind the development of the second model, which more closely resembles European typefaces and the further development by Worcester for it’s adaptation to metal type. There were obviously various technical and cultural motivations that existed in the mid-19th century which determined how Sequoyah's writing system developed and mutated and for the most part the design decisions were fairly sound at the time.

Present-day expectations and presumptions about what is, or is not authentic is quite another matter and has given rise to some odd results. My own preliminary attempts at designing Cherokee fonts has been informed by the original (metal) typefaces, and to some extent the earlier cursive model. I don't pretend that the first version (as comes with OSX) is exactly as I would like it, and I continue to develop it and other Cherokee fonts—however what I, as a type designer see as a rational process and result may not always meet the expectations of the users of the language, as other interpretations that proliferate weren't produced using the same rationale. I am writing an article on this, but like so many things it is not complete yet so I don't want to post a link here yet. If anyone is interested, they can contact me directly: ross {at} tiro {dot} com

kholvn's picture

The script shown in the pic is what Sequoyah came up with but was changed, as I mentioned, to accommodate creating typesets for a printing press. I, for one, have noticed trouble from modern students in learning the syllabary the way it is now. It takes extra effort for them to disregard their mind set in seeing some of the symbols as letters of the alphabet. They see D as 'dee' instead of 'aw' and so on. I've always felt it would have been easier to learn the original than what was developed for the press.

Also, the numbers system wasn't adopted by the Cherokee Nation. They felt the roman numbers were good enough. Again, I wish we would use the numbering system.

The current writing system has been used over the years. I'm often asked to translate letters and note books written in the syllabary. Mostly it was used to write down arcane medicine used by our medicine people. But, of course, we have the New Testament and some of the Old written in the syllabary. Hymns are written down too. So the writing system is used to this day.

One last thing for now.

What Sequoyah came up with still isn't the original writing system. There was a priest clan that was killed off that had a writing system. We have an old legend that mentions we had a writing system thousands of years ago.

hrant's picture

> It takes extra effort for them to disregard their mind set
> in seeing some of the symbols as letters of the alphabet.

This is exactly the problem even in major scripts like Cyrillic.
Cyrillic for example was formally Latinized three centuries
ago by Peter the Great; now, especially if a Cyrillic snippet is
interjected in English text (or vice versa), the reader will get
thrown off. The attenuating factor there is that the Russians
are not an endagered culture, so it's not a huge deal.

hhp

cuttlefish's picture

A short piece from Hermann Zapf's Alphabet Stories regarding his development of a Cherokee syllabary font.

Also I have posted a comparison image of the Cherokee part of Agamemnon along side Plantagenet and the "official" font in the Agamemnon Critique thread, if anyone wants to have a look at it.

kholvn's picture

Although I could read each example of the Cherokee Syllabary easily, I kind of liked the Agamemnon type a little bit better because of its unique designs of some of the symbols.

In the early ninties, I worked with a man who developed a font for use by the Mac and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it was very easy to use. One could type in the sounds and it would come up in the syllabary. It was easy to use and quick but it kept some folks from learning to read and write it. It was too easy to use. A person didn't really need to know how to write in Cherokee to type it up on the computer.

I used this font until a few months ago when the program just quit! I do miss it but am now searching for a font that I can use for my classes. Which is how I found this great site and board. (lucky me)

cuttlefish's picture

I posted an update to Agamemnon Cherokee a couple days ago. Does it show any improvement?

Ross Mills's picture

Jason:
>It would be nice to see it in a longer text as opposed to this letter-by-letter display.

I was revisiting this thread and noticed I had overlooked this wish, realizing I could oblige.

Below is a snippit of text which shows the cursive version of the syllabary underneath the same text in "regular" syllabics (the upper being Huronia).

This is pretty rough, and is just the first step in my analysis of the cursive form for adoption as either an "italic" or perhaps an italic stylistic variant which I am considering working into Huronia. In any case, what is shown is unrefined and quite close to Sequoyah's original, although I've adjusted the nominal baseline a little as well as inter-character fit (neither to any large extent). Needless to say, a typographic interpretation would smooth things out, but this gives a rough idea as to how hand-written manuscript might look using these forms of the syllables.

buey okyan's picture

this is a typeface i designed for cherokee, inspired by the soviet constructivist style. as i am not very computer literate, i hand drew this entire set old school with a mayline, compass, and triangle. if anyone would like to make it into a fully functional computer font i would be indescribably happy. just throwing that out there. this is the first time i've seen discussion of indian typefaces on the internet outside of an indian forum so i'm interested in the response from the design world.

Pablo R's picture

Further South, but still native Americans Tzeltal and Tzotzil Mayan languages use Latin based systems as there was no actual written form until mid 20 century.

A long time ago while helping with a educational project in the mountains of southern Mexico I did this as an experiment, maybe the interesting thing is the idea use of a modified ' to indicate inspired vocals very common in Tzeltal, and the use of a K instead of a Q which is not used in Tzeltal but usually appear in texts.

The dingbats are based in children drawings. It was very usual to have soldiers, helicopters and bombs drawn at art class.

The font was called Tzeltal Kop or True Word

Karl Stange's picture

In light of the discussion started in the TypeCon New Orleans? thread, I thought it would be good to revive this thread and add some discussion of what would be involved in adding support for Cherokee to new and existing fonts as well as some discussion about how best to deal with additional styles. I would very much like to get a better understanding of all the design and language considerations involved in supporting Cherokee.

matt_yow's picture

cthulhufishing, thanks for bumping this thread. The TypeCon New Orleans thread really sparked my interest in Cherokee.
I'd like to do more research and learn more on this.

I see some really basic skeletal letterforms from what Ross Mills post (thanks!) but can anyone point me to sort of extremely basic and fundamental construction? I mean like a subtraction of style and character. All the samples and specimens I can find have a high contrast style, distinct style, kind of all looking very similar.

John Hudson's picture

The Cherokee speakers at TypeCon mentioned that they had developed a kind of skeleton font to indicate the necessary elements of Cherokee syllabics. I didn't make a note of their contact information, but perhaps someone who did can direct their attention to this thread? It would be great to have them contribute to the discussion.

hrant's picture

I'll alert Joseph.
BTW, another impressive thing is how they apparently carried
out what was essentially field-testing to figure out which parts
of the syllables were important, both in terms of reading and
satisfying their Elders.

hhp

JosephErb's picture

ᎣᏏᏲ ᏂᎦᏓ, (hello everyone) Thanks for all the interest.... a lot being said in this line of discussion. As Font makers you have noticed that much of what we use today, as a designed font, is pretty bad when it comes to some of the very rough looking uneven font designs. It is a very complex issue when it comes to the Cherokee orthography in the community. Cherokees take great pride in our writing system. It is true that many in the eastern band of Cherokees do not read and write cherokee but some do. And it is also true that at one time some people at the museum over there proposed the idea of changing our syllabary writing system in to a alphabet. This was quickly dismissed and did not go over very well and we should just leave it at that. Many more people here in Oklahoma Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band read and write in Cherokee. Roy Boney and I were very honored to speak to so many font designers that work on so many languages. Roy and I worked with many advanced speakers from our community and that work at CHerokee Nation to find out what advanced speakers look for in a writing system for each character. We developed a very thin font that was made in fontlab. It is not really that professionally made but it has many needed things in it. Most languages around the world have font styles for many different needs, printed type, signs, web, fun, ads and so on as you all know. but we do not have this for our own language at this time, when we need it the most. Many in the community do not question why we dont have more fonts. In fact many get defensive when we first talk about new fonts a few years ago thinking we where trying to change the language or proposing something like what the museum over and eastern band wanted. Roy and I believe that if we are going to continue to have a language for our community it must have all the power and strength that different fonts can offer.. We started realizing we needed to be on the computers and cell phones then after we got on that we realized that we needed more fonts. This idea is starting to be understood by some of our elders when we start to show them why we want to do this or have it done. It is always important to work with the community that reads and writes the language that you are designing for. Most languages have enough material out there so that that is not needed but in smaller language groups it is important to talk to people before starting your design work. Much of the problems with the present fonts is that people did not at least have the community it was made for, have look at it, before the release. The Cherokee Type face was made for a printing press and all of our fonts still look like they are for that same purpose. Sequoyah in his time wrote with print from the style influenced from the printing press also, even after he made the cursive style too. His main reason was to create a writing system that would allow his people to communicate in written form. If he was round today, I believe he would be designing fonts and having others to design some for all these technologies that are constantly coming out (and have different requirements) for Cherokee people to use and communicate with each other. So if anyone needs more information about cherokee handwriting for fonts feel free to email me. We have collected handwriting samples and old documents that might help a font designer with the information they are looking for. joseph-erb@cherokee.org
ᏩᏙ ᏂᎦᏓ
ᏙᎾᏓᎪᎲᎢ
joseph

John Hudson's picture

Joseph, is it possible for you to post a link to the 'very thin font' that you have made, or at least to a PDF of it, so that this can serve as a guide to type designers thinking about new styles? One of the things that is frequently a problem for designers encountering a new script is discerning which features are essential to the identity of a sign and which are particular to individual styles.

With regard to feedback from the community, I think my own approach -- if I ever find time to work on my ideas for a Cherokee type -- would be to make a set of representative glyphs covering, say, ten syllables, demonstrating the principal characteristics of the style, then seek feedback on these. I presume you would be able to facilitate this sort of review by members of the community (elders, of course, but also those who are most likely to use the new styles of type).

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