The great 'Cedilla vs Undercomma' debate...

Nick Job's picture

Just been thinking about cedilla options. Microsoft typography says this...

Under comma and cedilla

The under comma is the preferred form in the Romanian language for the uppercase characters S and T with under comma accent and lowercase s and t with under comma accent. Four new Unicode values have been defined to accommodate this preference: Scommaaccent U+0218 ; scommaaccent U+0219 ; Tcommaaccent U+021A ; tcommaaccent U+021B

The connecting cedilla is the preferred form in the Turkish language for the uppercase S with cedilla and lowercase s with cedilla: Scedilla U+015E ; scedilla U+015F

An under comma is an acceptable alternative to a connecting cedilla for the following characters: Ccedilla U+00c7 ; ccedilla U+00e7 ; Kcedilla U+0136 ; kcedilla U+0137 ; Lcedilla U+013b ; lcedilla U+013c ; Ncedilla U+0145 ; ncedilla U+0146 ; Rcedilla U+0156 ; rcedilla U+0157 ; Tcedilla U+0162 ; tcedilla U+0163

In the Portuguese and Catalan languages the traditional connecting style of a cedilla is more commonly preferred for the Ccedilla U+00c7 and ccedilla U+00e7.

It is common in modern designs and French typography to see a cedilla design with a stroke that is not connecting or as in common handwriting, a line that passes through the bottom or beneath the uppercase or lowercase c.

Are Microsoft right, should I do what they say?

Who is the authority on cedillas?

Does my cedilla have to be a traditional shape? Would an undercomma-style cedilla on my ccedilla and scedilla offend or upset French/Turkish/Portuguese/anyone else? Should I just knuckle down and design a traditional cedilla that connects with the c and s?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Nick, I am no authority on cedillas, but I would stick with what is stated in the paragraphs you quoted... If you check out the Unicode Code Charts, you will find the same info regarding when to use each kind of glyph (cedilla and undercomma). Also, have a look at the info on the origin of the cedilla shape here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedilla

blank's picture

One thing I will say in favor of the undercomma: it works a hell of a lot better than cedilla in bold and black faces.

Nick Job's picture

I guess what I may be asking is, is the traditional cedilla being slowly usurped by the undercomma and, if so, how do the French, the Catalans, the Portuguese and the Turkish feel about it?

dezcom's picture

"is the traditional cedilla being slowly usurped by the undercomma"

I don't think so. There have been language differences for many years. Different countries have their traditional ways. The American spelling of color without the u has not prevented the Britts from using their chosen spelling. Likewise, the use of diacritics will continue to vary with the country in question. Different strokes...
ChrisL

AGL's picture

Please, leave them there as they are. Ç ç don't look like Ç ç with an undercomma. First time I ever heard of it.

guifa's picture

There's also a difference between a unconnected cedilla and an undercomma.

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

Nick Job's picture

First time I ever heard of it.

Check out Soho's Ccedilla and ccedilla.

guifa's picture

Soho's cedilla is more angled than its combining comma. The combining comma maintains more or less the angle of, well, the comma, but the cedilla has an angle more akin the to acute.

I didn't have an under-acute to compare with, but the comma, undercomma, and overcomma all have roughly the same angle, whereas the cedilla and the acute roughly share a different angle. The blue lines in this picture just border the mark, the dashed red line is the same angle for each and passes through the middle of the accents. (for reference, it's comma, n-undercomma, c-cedilla, a-acute, g-reversecomma)

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

scannerlicker's picture

Well, as Portuguese, I have to reply to this one.

Cedillas are not undercommas, so they should be distinctive. A undercomma looks like a comma, and cedillas look like a vertically flipped question mark ("?"), without the dot.

So, the article you have is ALMOST right. Albeit in Portuguese or Catalan we don't use undercommas and would immediately read a "c" with an undercomma as a "ç", I believe that we should use a undercomma as an stylistic option for two reasons:

- Undercommas and cedillas have different origins, so they should be distinctive (as a cultural mark);
- With the normalization on a Western alphabet of fonetic transcriptions of non-western-native languages, these two could be used in the same language.

It saddens me that Soho, which is such a nice font, doesn't have proper cedillas.

Hope that I've helped.

Thomas Phinney's picture

> is the traditional cedilla being slowly usurped by the undercomma

No.

What you're showing in Soho is just wrong. (A surprise in an otherwise admirable typeface.)

(Note: The above statement should not be taken to mean that I have done a perfect job in language sensitivity of diacritics, myself. The initial release of Hypatia Sans has overly steep acute accents for Czech, when they should have been restricted to only Polish. This has been corrected for the regular retail release, whenever that ends up being.)

T

Michel Boyer's picture

> is the traditional cedilla being slowly usurped by the undercomma

That question is asking for factual answers; I have no statistics but those fonts with detached cedillas under the c are indeed being used.

First, here is from a Herzing College advertisement I photographed a few minutes ago in the Montreal metro. Those are big letters, on top of the advertisement:


And here is from the cover of the recently published French translation (in France) of James Meek, Beginning of our Descent.

TheMix Plain is used for advitersement by Fido, a local communication provider, and they don't prevent from using a big "c cedilla" when needed.

Michel

Jongseong's picture

I've wondered about Akira Kobayashi's design decisions with Eurostile Next, his redesign of Eurostile:


Eurostile Bold Extended 2


Eurostile Next Bold Extended

These images, taken from Linotype's Eurostile Next font feature, come with these comments:

Eurostile Next also contains a rethinking of the fonts’ accents and special characters. In previous decades, these symbols were unfortunately not considered as important as they are today, when fonts are marketed to a global audience instead of primarily to Western Europeans and North Americans.

The first two letters of each of these images represent cedillas. So it looks like the departure from the traditional shape for the cedilla is presented here as an improvement for the global audience. I'm not sure what to think of this.

paul d hunt's picture

very interesting. P22 Underground Pro has both, but the comma form as the default. in my research here for my dissertation, i have found that language specific preferences for forms are not always hard and fast. these types of considerations usually come down to the tastes of the user. in my opinion, options like these may be better served as stylistic alternates or sets, especially where there is some debate about what forms are appropriate as in this case, or in the case of 'Bulgarian' forms for cyrillic, or in the case of language specific forms for Hindi, Marathi, and Nepali. another argument for stylistic alternates/sets is that major languages are not confined to one geographical location and are not bound by a single culture. native French and French-speaking Canadians will likely have different customs for how they use different forms, as will native Spanish and Spanish speakers from the americas, &c. so in my opinion, it doesn't really matter which form you use as a default, as long as you are aware that there are other options and that you make these options available to the user. of course this is tricky with the current state of application support... but that onus is upon others and not typeface designers.

scannerlicker's picture

it doesn’t really matter which form you use as a default, as long as you are aware that there are other options and that you make these options available to the user.

Paul - Not really, let me disagree with you. Imagine that you are Portuguese and you use cedillas quite often. You press your "ç" button on your keyboard (yes, we use it that much that we need a specific button) and you get a "c" with a undercomma. Not good. It should be default, if it is cedilla.

First function, then form, only after stylistic narcissism. So, alternatives should be the new, default should be the old.

Jong - Well, that case isn't so violent. Undercommas are vertical and cedillas, because of the semi-circle shape, seem more diagonal. In fact, in writing, most people use a quarter of circle (right-bottom quarter), connected to the base.

But it could be better, indeed.

paul d hunt's picture

Not good. It should be default, if it is cedilla.

if you're Portuguese and your preference is for the connected variety, this is not good, but say you are French and prefer the disconnected version, it is very good. This was the crux of my whole post above. It would be a pain in the arse to make different font versions for every language that has a different preference, so these things should be included as stylistic sets. If there is ONE form agreed upon by all members who use a particular language, then this is easily implemented in OpenType so that if you set the language of your document, the correct form is applied automatically. Given, not all applications support OpenType, but it is assumed that those who care enough about these distinctions have more sophisticated software that can cope with these things.

So, alternatives should be the new, default should be the old.

This is tantamount to cultural narcissism.
New ≠ Bad, and Old ≠ Good. It's not that simple.

scannerlicker's picture

Paul - Sorry again, but it's incorrect the claim that French prefer the disconnected version. The unconnected version is gaining ground because of new fonts having non-conventional (or even bad) cedillas. And as I said before, since French, Catalan or Portuguese DON'T have the undercomma accent, we naturally read it as a cedilla. But a undercomma is never a cedilla. And a Romenian while learning Catalan shouldn't be confused.

And yes, there is one agreed form for the cedilla, as well as different Unicode entries for both accents.

Given, not all applications support OpenType, but it is assumed that those who care enough about these distinctions have more sophisticated software that can cope with these things.

We don't have more sofisticated softwares, we simply have different keyboards. With cedillas. Or undercommas. Or even ogoneks. Or combinations of these glyphs/accents.

This is tantamount to cultural narcissism.
New ≠ Bad, and Old ≠ Good. It’s not that simple.

No one has made assumptions has that one. It's more like a Old = Settled and Less Ambiguous / New = Breakthrough, Forwardthinking and probably Naïve. It's not a black and white thing.

So, my point is: As swashes are additional features but still need the "default" glyphs, stylistic accents are additional features and DO demand the default accents.

Thanks for questioning, hope that this helped.

Edit:
There are unconnected versions of cedillas that still look as cedillas.

scannerlicker's picture

Paul - Ricardo Cordoba, on this thread, as posted a link on the subject. It's quite elucidating. Here you go:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedilla

And here's a good website on diacritics:

http://diacritics.typo.cz/

Cheers!

Michel Boyer's picture

> And here’s a good website on diacritics:

And here is an actual choice of some Brazilian editor. That cannot be an accident.

I think that's what the editor wanted to have on display. Whether it is a sin or not is not for me to decide. I just searched for the word "ação" (in fact, for some unknown reason I had to type "acção") in the site http://www.livrariasaraiva.com.br

Michel

scannerlicker's picture

Michel - Well, there are some differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. "Ação" is Brazilian, "acção" European. As you see, we read it as a cedilla.

And it can be an accident. As I said, we don't have undercommas. Neither Brazilians do. And most of the people, even editors, don't know of undercomma as being different from cedillas.

Check Paul Hunt's cedillas in Grandia. They are stylistically uncommon but still very functional and unambiguous.

Paul - By the way, just saw your Grandia font. It's lovely! Will you be selling it?

paul d hunt's picture

it’s incorrect the claim that French prefer the disconnected version

i didn't mean to imply that all French prefer one version or the other, that's counter to my argument. I'm sure there are speakers of French, Portuguese, and Catalan that prefer one version and those that prefer another.

there is one agreed form for the cedilla

this is the part i don't believe. it is true that Unicode encodes these separately, but they do NOT prescribe acceptable forms for what these should look like. Unicode also encodes other characters that may be visually identical (Eth & Dcroat) saying there is one form of cedilla is just the same as saying there is one form for a (two storey and the one storey is unacceptable!) but this is simply not true. If there were only one way to display each symbol, we would only have one font, right?

It’s more like a Old = Settled and Less Ambiguous / New = Breakthrough, Forwardthinking and probably Naïve

i don't mind being considered naïve, but i try to educate myself as best as possible before making decisions in matters such as these. it IS a more than a bit naïve to believe anything you read on wikipedia at face value, so i'll take that with a grain of salt.

re: Grandia. Thank you!
i have no current plans for distribution, but i hope to release it eventually. if you are interested in beta versions, please contact me off list.

k.l.'s picture

Fábio Martins --
And as I said before, since French, Catalan or Portuguese DON'T have the undercomma accent, we naturally read it as a cedilla. But a undercomma is never a cedilla.
And most of the people, even editors, don’t know of undercomma as being different from cedillas.

Why then insist on designing different ones?

As long as a language only knows either cedilla or commaaccent but not both, the actual difference or non-difference between them does not matter as long as it is clear -- in contrast to yet other diacritic marks -- that within a text of this language, a certain shape stands for cedilla, or commaaccent.
Paul Hunt's interpretation of cedilla is particularly interesting in this regard. Think of it as todays zigzag z shape, slightly rotated, rather than the round one which not in use any more (illustration from Mr Cordoba's Wikipedia link). The only difference between this cedilla and commaaccent is connection vs non-connection. Now imagine the cedilla being unconnected (i.e. the commaaccent) but closer to the letter, and all this printed at 10pt. I bet that while reading you would not notice that they are unconnected except if you were told before.

Personally I think that internationalization of type design, the need to cover more and more diacritic letter, goes hand in hand with "evening out" of national peculiarities. Cedilla vs commaaccent. Flat vs steep acute/grave.
Personally I am more and more reluctant to make statements about what French or Portugese or Turks or Germans "want to see". Actually designers can get away with quite uncommon solutions that are not wrong at all, and without anybody noticing as long as it is still clear what a word or text means. In Germany you will find Turkish shops that use a dot instead of cedilla below c/s, or macron/dot instead of breve above yumusak g.
This does not mean that typographers and type designers should stop caring. It is us who keep up typographic quality. And by choosing one or another letterform we even make a statement about its assumed origin. (E.g. the shape of eszett exhibits whether it was interpreted as longs+s, longs+z or longs+diacritic mark, none of them being "wrong".) Yet we should be pragmatic and not insist on certain rules just to show off that we belongs to those "who know".

P.S.
Looks like this was a very good year both for KABK and Reading.

[A bit repetitive after Paul Hunt's last post which I saw too late ...]

Nick Shinn's picture


Didot, 1800.

metalfoot's picture

Still, that's not a comma; it's a cedilla. Maybe more designers need to make cedillas which are not connected?

scannerlicker's picture

Paul, K.L. - OK, I was not fully understanding your point (Paul), so excuse me for this. I was trying to make note that (ideologically) cedillas and undercommas should be distinctive.

While I was away, I saw the portuguese translation that my girlfriend has of the Pantanjali's Yoga Sûtra (in Sanskrit, phonetic translation and portuguese), and could stop noticing that cedillas and undercommas are used in the same text.

I noticed also that I left the impression that cedillas should be connected. No, I don't believe in this as I oppose to the idea that all is already made, and that we can't improve anything. Again, I am just trying to imprint that these accents should be distinctive, as they can appear side-by-side.

Oh, and about narcissism and naïveness, I wasn't trying to pull the depreciative mood of the words.

Nick - See the serif on top of the crescent shape? That's related to the cedilla form, so it's a cedilla. And it's distinct from the comma (assuming that would be like the apostrofe. Thanks for posting the image.

Nick Shinn's picture


Here are a few of my recent efforts.
In general, I would seem to follow the principle that the comma accent should look like the comma, and the cedilla should be connected, pace Didot.
In several, it's practically impossible to differentiate the two accents in normal reading of book-sized text, so Romanians studying Catalan should keep a magnifying glass handy :-)

paul d hunt's picture

Oh, and about narcissism and naïveness, I wasn’t trying to pull the depreciative mood of the words.

i'm sorry if i used a bit of overemotive language. all apologies.

that these accents should be distinctive, as they can appear side-by-side

not that i don't believe you, but can you name some instances?

I would seem to follow the principle that the comma accent should look like the comma, and the cedilla should be connected, pace Didot

i tend to follow the principle that the comma accent should look like a cedilla without the connecting portion and typically do connect cedillas, unless the style suits a disjointed version better and then i do provide the option for connecting cedillas for those who want to use them. i believe the original (metal) Nicholas Cochin typeface featured a disconnected cedilla as well... i don't have time to verify this at this moment, though.

dezcom's picture

My hope is that the language tag would cause the proper form to be used by the software--assuming the type designer has included both in the font. The problem comes with differences that are cultural and not language based as noted by Paul's words about French vs Canadian French and Brazilian vs Portuguese. Hopefully language tags can become more specific to get around this.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

Hopefully language tags can become more specific to get around this.

i doubt this is even possible. this is why i advocated (or thought i had or meant to) language tags + stylistic sets and alternates.

dezcom's picture

I am such a dreamer, Paul :-)

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

what are you dreaming up these days, chris? :^D

scannerlicker's picture

"Proença goes to Pitești on vacation."

Proença is a Portuguese family name and Pitești is a Romanian city.

It could happen.

It also seems that Georgia doesn't support &scommaaccent;

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Didot, 1800.

Nick, could that just be a broken line? There is a "u" with a broken serif in the upper left corner of your image.

Chris_Harvey's picture

As far as I know, the following languages either use a cedilla for ç, ş or both.

  • Western & Central Romance: French, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Venetian, Ligurian, etc.
  • certain Basque dialects
  • Turkic: Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen, etc.

Languages which use a comma accent are: Romanian (ș ț), Latvian (Ģ ķ ļ ņ), Livonian (ņ ț ḑ ŗ ļ). Even though the Unicode standard labels characters such as Ņ as N WITH CEDILLA, I’m fairly sure that they should look like comma accents, but it would be canonically equivalent to N + COMBINING CEDILLA.

Therefore,

  • Ccedilla, Scedilla, and Tcedilla would be drawn with a cedilla and be equivalent to Character + combining cedilla.
  • Scommaaccent and Tcommaaccent would be drawn with a comma accent and be equivalent to Character + combining comma below
  • Gcedilla, Kcedilla, Lcedilla, and Ncedilla would be drawn with a comma accent and be equivalent to Character + combining cedilla.

All this said, pre-Vista Romanian keyboard layouts for Windows incorrectly mapped ș and ț as cedillas, so there are a lot of Romanian documents floating around with cedillas instead of comma accents.

Michel Boyer's picture

French uses the ccedilla i.e. U+00E7 giving rise to the following lines in the Unicode file NamesList.txt

00E7    LATIN SMALL LETTER C WITH CEDILLA
        : 0063 0327

0327     COMBINING CEDILLA
        * French, Turkish, Azerbaijani
        x (cedilla - 00B8)

The only diacritic that goes under any letter in French must be a cedilla and must then be under a c. The logical consequence is that if you see some diacritic under a c in French, that must be a cedilla.

In order to see how cedillas may actually look like in French, one can search for books with the word "Français" (i.e. French) in the FNAC site (a major French book store) so as to see the cover of a few books to learn or teach French in schools. And here are a few (I am not saying they are representative, but those texts are from major publishers) :

Michel

Thomas Phinney's picture

What percentage or proportion of those books use something other than an attached cedilla form?

T

Freeza's picture

I'm also Portuguese, and for me its almost anecdotal do confuse a under comma with a cedilla BUT! the fact is that many types are designed by non proper cedilla users and probably that is why we see so many bad examples as those showed here. For me it's simply a lack of knowledge.

-

www.nunocoelho.com

Michel Boyer's picture

@ Thomas

If I look only at those textbooks on top of the search list, to be used in schools, and for which I can get an image large enough to be sure, I get 8 detached against 18 attached cedillas, but publishers tend to be consistent and it would be unwise to draw clear cut conclusions from such a small sample. All those covers are also clearly in a casual style but they may help guessing what people think is a cedilla in French, especially when the cover is hand drawn. As an additional indicator, I have never seen a detached cedilla in a serif font (in French).

@ Nuno

Larousse is a highly respected publisher of dictionaries and here is what figures on the cover of their dictionary of middle french:

I guess the Presses Universitaires de France** are more of a reference in terms of typography. For their catalogue of the "Que Sais-je?" collection, they use QuaySansEF and here is the ccedilla:

This time the attachment stem is clearly there but where is the cedilla? :) That ccedilla figures in the text, and at 8pt size.

Michel

** I may have guessed wrong.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Traffic Typeface, France: Charactères L5


From Ralf’s Flickr stream

Michel Boyer's picture

@ Florian. Sorry Florian, I did not intend to bounce your post.

Florian's post should be read after mine.

Michel Boyer's picture

And now, as a follow up to Florian's post, here are two glyphs that figure side by side in the pdf of Jean-François Porchez font Parisine.

And you read in his text: Stylistic set 5 converts the connected c cedillas to disconnected c cedillas (for visual harmony with Parisine Plus in PostScript format).

Freeza's picture

You may have a point there, but again... I don't have any idea about why those guys did it. What I know is that in Portuguese Catalan and Turkish the under comma doesn't even exist, "ç" is a solo character.

For non cedilla users it looks just the same and can be seen only as a matter of style... but it's not. I can even compare it with the classic clash between double quotes and the inches... well to you it may have a great matter of importance but to some of us portuguese... we always use it the wrong way... now... is it a matter of style? Or maybe it's because we don't use it like the english do? I could print screen a million of books that are using the inch character instead of the quote, and that wouldnt prove much.

Cedilla is one thing and the under comma is another. The correct way to represent it is clear, but how people do it it's not under no ones control.

-

www.nunocoelho.com

Michel Boyer's picture

There is no undercomma in French either; what I am saying is that what a cedilla is is not so clear as you seem to imply. Here is a grab from the pdf of the Turkish newspaper Agos:

And here is what I see when I enlarge the ccedilla:

Michel

Freeza's picture

but this is just a matter of the type style... for example the "ã" or "õ" can have a straight line on top... of course it can, but its a matter of style, being straight or not it will always be a tilde.
-

www.nunocoelho.com

Michel Boyer's picture

> but this is just a matter of the type style...

Indeed! And for the record, here is from the front page of the Portuguese newspaper O primeiro de janeiro, pdf version:

Michel

Michel Boyer's picture

And from the same Portuguese newspaper, one can find the following stylistic variation for a ccedilla:

Here is a closer look:

Michel

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

It would be interesting to see how schoolchildren in Portugal and France are taught to write the cedilla...

Thomas Phinney's picture

I stand corrected: obviously there is quite a bit of usage of detached cedillas and other forms quite different from traditional cedillas.

It would be interesting to understand in what contexts (if any) having poor distinction between cedilla and comma or macron and tilde actually matters. I'm wondering if there are languages or phonetic usages where these newfangled approaches would be ambiguous.

Freeza's picture

To Ricardo:

They teach it properly, but as you grow up you tend to distort it(as well as many other letters)and make variations like a small straight line that barely touches the C or even crosses it, almost a dot and so on.

To Michael:

I don't even know that Newspaper it's probably a local one... but that doesn't matter, what matter is that, the ones making these changes are probably the typographers that don't use the cedilla. If you check the Dax you just posted, for me its ok, its like a simplified version of the cedilla but not a comma, i would even say that they know what a cedilla is when they designed the typeface (joke). Now... only a small number of people could have this discussion and actually care about it cus in fact... i never ever thought about this "problem" and i really don't care much to say the truth cus no matter how you make a cedilla or a tilde it will always me a cedilla and a tilde... it's like Obama said the other day... a pig with lipstick is still a pig. Being Portuguese, adopted by Catalans and had a Turkish girlfriend ( and have family in France lol) this is pretty clear to me :)

To Thomas:

Actually having it detached doesn't change it at all because people recognize it as a "Ç" always and if you check the Turkish alphabet that has a lot of cedillas and under commas... the letters that have a cedilla don't have a under comma and so on... so even if you during handwriting make no difference between the under comma and the cedilla it will always be read correctly. As for Romanian... there's always the context to help reading it properly. Almost all Romanian computer texts still use S-cedilla or even S instead of the under comma S because the character simply didn't existed in unicode.

here is my opinion :) I think I don't have much more to say or else i will repeat myself :P

-

www.nunocoelho.com

Nick Job's picture

Thanks for all your comments.

I'm none the wiser. There seem to be a lot of valid arguments either way. No right or wrong...just convention vs boundary-pushing. (Maybe that's the same, regardless of which glyph you're talking about.)

Alessandro Segalini's picture

There are also dots for it in Turkey.

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