[Localization] Arabic Projects

Nicholas Bodley nbodley at speakeasy.net
Wed Jul 30 13:09:35 EDT 2008

On Wed Jul 30 11:44 , Khaled Hosny  sent:

>Arabic typewriters used what so called "Simplified Arabic script" where
>each letter has only 2 forms (on used as isolated and final, and the
>other as initial and medial) reducing the number of needed glyph while
>remaining acceptably readable.

Most interesting! Did the Shift key select the other form for a given letter?
For such people as students of writing systems and typography, it would be good
to have some images of typewritten Arabic on the Web.

>> [...] see Arabic Presentation Forms, A and B,

>This isn't needed any more, in the era of "smart fonts" most script
>complexities were moved to font rather than encoding domain, all what
>you need are Arabic OpenType fonts and an OpenType capable engine
>(Pango, Uniscripe, etc..)

Indeed, I thank you for bringing me up to date (in general, and in this detail).
I know about OpenType in a general way, and perhaps should have known that it
included support for Arabic.

>I'd not call it "Urdu script" since Nastaliq is one of several
>traditional Arabic calligraphy styles, and though commonly preferred in
>Iran and India/Pakistan, it is used all over the Arabic region. In turn
>Urdu and Farsi can be very well written using Naskh or other modern
>computer fonts and it is even preferred for maximum readability.

Thank you for explaining this. As to readability, I look at, say, the Al Jazeera
logo, or the Tughra, or "Lubnan", and feel some sense of wonder when I see them.
These seem to be a form of calligraphy not found in other writing systems. With a
very graceful alphabet to start with, creative calligraphers can make amazing

>If by "mechanically" you mean metal type,

I did.

>then Arabic printing houses as early as 1800's produced very carefully typeset
Arabic book that we yet to have a computer system that can imitate.

That's just fascinating. I would not have thought it possible. I do hope that
somebody has saved a few fonts of type from that period. One would think that
there was quite a large number of different sorts (glyphs) in a given typeface.
As well, one wonders whether the body of each piece was only a rectangle, or
whether some more sophisticated scheme was worked out.

Indeed, as you say, typeset Arabic could be as beautiful as the type designer
could make it. As I see it, I have some doubts about whether computer typesetting
can be, or will be, subtle enough, for some time to come.

It would be a treat, for those who are interested, to see images of such typeset
Arabic. The type, itself, is a cultural treasure.

>Pango on Linux does the rendering on its own, while it can use Uniscripe
>and AAT on Windows and OS X respectively.

That's very helpful. I had not known about AAT.

I think these details would be of interest to subscribers to the Qalam mailing
list on yahoogroups.com. That list (only sporadically active) is for people
interested in writing systems, and sometimes branches out a bit into linguistics
and typography.

Perhaps I could forward your message to that list, with your permission (also
with OLPC's permission).

> Khaled Hosny
> Arabic localizer and member of Arabeyes.org team

Many thanks, and best regards!

Nicholas Bodley
Waltham, Mass.
Sent from Speakeasy.net web mail

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