[INDOLOGY] Devanagari font adequacy

Peter Scharf scharfpm7 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 17 19:28:17 UTC 2016

Dear Indologists,

I have just completed a comparison of the ligature formation produced by several Devanagari fonts and thought it might be useful to share the results of the comparison.  I compared 1260 ligatures formed by the LaTeX Skt package with seven Unicode fonts.  The ligatures compared were the combined set of all those listed by Ulrich Stiehl in his document, Conjunct Consonants in Sanskrit, Heidelberg, 21 April 2003, pp. 4--34, and those listed in the Skt package documentation Sanskrit for LaTeX2e, pp. 22--35.

1. LaTeX Skt package
2. Chandas
3. Uttara
4. Sanskrit2003
5. Praja
6. Arial Unicode MS
7. Devanagari MT
8. Mangal

The LaTeX Skt package comes with the TeXLive installation available at https://www.tug.org/texlive/.  The Chandas and Uttara fonts were produced by produced by Mihail Bayaryn and are available at http://www.sanskritweb.net/cakram/.  The Sanskrit2003 font was produced by Ulrich Stiehl and is available at http://www.omkarananda-ashram.org/Sanskrit/itranslator2003.htm.  These fonts are all available free of cost.  Praja was produced by Peter Freund and is available for $35 at https://secure.bmtmicro.com/servlets/Orders.ShoppingCart?CID=5115&PRODUCTID=51150002.  Arial Unicode MS is available with Microsoft Office, FrontPage and Publisher, with the installation of international support.  Devanagari MT is available with Mac systems with the Asian languages support.  Mangal is available with Windows systems with supplemental language support.

The comparison showed that Chandas and Uttara are able to form all conjuncts correctly with the exception of seven sequences: ṅkṣṇva, ṅrvya, ṭhthya, dḍḍa, ddbra, ddvra, l̃la, without the interruption of an inappropriate virāma.  The LaTeX Skt package handles all but 29.  Sanskrit 2003 lacked 80, Praja 187, Arial Unicode MS 201, Devanagari MT 232, and Mangal 236.  I also checked the behavior of the fonts in handling the accents in the Devanagari extended, and Vedic extenstions Unicode pages.  Only the Praja font handled them all properly, the LaTeX Skt package handles most Vedic accentuation, while most fonts handled only the common accentual system.  A test of Vedic accents with any font can be performed by visiting the Sanskrit Library's interactive Vedic Unicode character phonetic value table at http://sanskritlibrary.org/accents.html.  Simply set your browser to use the font you would like to test.

The first five fonts listed are therefore commendable; the last three are inadequate for Sanskrit.  It would be desirable for Mihail Bayaryn and Ulrich Stiehl to upgrade their fonts, which otherwise handle conjuncts very comprehensively, to handle the Vedic characters in the two Unicode pages mentioned including in particular the combining candrabindu with semivowels l, y, and v.

Other Indic fonts not tested are described on the University of Chicago's South Asia Language Resource Center page at http://salrc.uchicago.edu/resources/fonts/available/hindi/.


Peter M. Scharf
scharfpm7 at gmail.com

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