[INDOLOGY] Sanskrit characters: a comparison of 12 fonts and their coverage of conjuncts

Peter Scharf scharfpm7 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 02:34:13 UTC 2023

Dear Indologists,

In 2016 (Friday, 17 June 2:28pm) I shared the results of the ligature formation produced by several Devanagari fonts.  I have just completed a revised comparison and thought it would be useful to share the results of this comparison as well.  A PDF of the comparison is available on The Sanskrit Library's Publications page at https://sanskritlibrary.org/publications.html under the title Sanskrit characters: a comparison of 12 fonts and their coverage of conjuncts.  As previously 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.  The fonts compared this time add Siddhanta, Sanskrit2020, Shobhika-Regular, and Shobhika-Bold.  The full list is as follows:

1. LaTeX Skt package
2. Chandas
3. Uttara
4. Siddhanta
5. Sanskrit2003
6. Sanskrit2020
7. Shobhika-Regular
8. Shobhika-Bold
9. Praja
10. Arial Unicode MS
11. Devanagari MT
12. Mangal

The LaTeX Skt package comes with the TeXLive installation available at https://www.tug.org/texlive/.  The Chandas, Uttara, and Siddhanta fonts were produced by Mihail Bayaryn.  The first two are available at http://www.sanskritweb.net/cakram/; all three are linked to http://svayambhava.blogspot.com/p/siddhanta-devanagariunicode-open-type.html.  The Sanskrit2003 font was produced by Ulrich Stiehl and is available at http://www.omkarananda-ashram.org/Sanskrit/itranslator2003.htm, and the Sanskrit2020 font is an updated version of it that includes the VedicExtensions Unicode block to accommodate Vedic accents available at https://sourceforge.net/projects/advaita-sharada-font/files/Devanagari/.  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 the Shobhika fonts (Regular and Bold) are able to produce all conjuncts correctly, without the interruption of an inappropriate virāma, with the exception of two ṭty and ṭṣṭh.  Siddhanta excepts just four: ṅkṣṇv, ṅkhn, ddbr, l̃l.  Chandas and Uttara are able to form all conjuncts correctly with the exception of seven sequences: ṅkṣṇv, ṅrvy, ṭhthy, dḍḍ, ddbr, ddvr, l̃l.  The LaTeX Skt package handles all but 29.  Sanskrit 2003 lacked 82, Sanskrit 2020 lacks 81, Praja 187, Arial Unicode MS 202, Devanagari MT 232, and Mangal 236.

I also checked the behavior of the fonts in handling the accents in the Devanagari extended, and Vedic extensions Unicode pages.  Only Praja font handled them all properly, the LaTeX Skt package handles most Vedic accentuation, Sanskrit 2020 handles all but the Maitrāyaṇī Saṁhitā midstroke.  Shobhika handles all but this and the Samaveda accents.  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 eight fonts listed, i.e. Shobhika, Siddhanta, Chandas, Uttara, LaTeX Skt, Sanskrit 2003 and 2020, and Praja, are therefore commendable; the last three are inadequate for Sanskrit.  Mihail Bayaryn's fonts use private code points to handle accents.  It would be desirable for him to upgrade his 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, President
The Sanskrit Library
scharf at sanskritlibrary.org
Peter Scharf
scharfpm7 at gmail.com

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