Background Guide to Inuktitut Syllabic Fonts

If you want to work in Inuktitut on a computer there are two choices. The preferred choice is to work with new standardized “Unicode” fonts such as Pigiarniq or Euphemia. Alternatively, you can work with older, non-standard “legacy” fonts such as Prosyl, Nunacom or Aujaq. The following provides a background on the issues associated with using the different type of fonts.

Unicode Syllabic Fonts - Examples:

Pigiarniq, Uqammaq, Euphemia, Ballymun RO, NunacomU, AipaiNunavikU, Andale Mono and other new fonts are continually being developed. Note: Euphemia is provided with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.

Properties:
Unicode syllabic fonts are based upon a widely adapted computer industry standard (known as 'Unicode") and can be interchanged with each other just as fonts used in English. These fonts generally contain the full Inuktitut syllabic range including the older “ai, pai, tai” characters. They are appropriate for all current computer uses - email, webpages, databases, publishing...

Limitations:

  • Not all software is Unicode compliant so in some cases it will be necessary to either use a different software package or to revert to an older font format. This is increasingly rare and should not apply to any widely used software - particulary www based programs. It is also possible to use a font conversion program to switch between a stable unicode format and an older legacy format.
  • Some education will be needed to learn multilingual computing techniques possible in various software and operating systems (i.e. using language tags and separating the keyboard choice from the font). It is no longer as simple as selecting a font and typing.

“Legacy” (7 or 8 bit) Syllabic Fonts - Examples

Naamajut, Oldsyl, Prosyl, Aujaq, Nunacom, Tunngavik, Inuk, Panilu, Tariurmiut, Qallusyl, Naulak, AiNunavik … and many more

Properties:
These “legacy” fonts refer to the large number of unique, non-interchangeable fonts developed since the 1980's . These fonts are not technically stable, but some are widely available and in use primarily by translators for creating documents for print.

Limitations:
  • Not stable when emailed or redistributed electronically. Technical errors are frequently introduced resulting in low quality publications.
  • Not cross-platform between Windows and Macintosh (with the exception of Aujaq, AiPaiNunavik and Nunacom)
  • Not reliable in databases or spreadsheets
  • Not able to be accurately* used for electronic publishing (*with the exception of using well-edited Adobe PDF documents)
  • Not able to be stably archived over a long period of time as a result of the dependence upon one specific font