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glyph selection for Unicode in browsers

From: Tex Texin <tex@i18nguy.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2002 14:51:28 -0400
Message-ID: <3D9205B0.2688C24C@i18nGuy.com>
To: WWW International <www-international@w3.org>, Unicoders <unicode@unicode.org>

Declaring "lang" for text, should help a browser display the text more
appropriately for the specified language.
(e.g. <span lang="es">Hola</span>

It seems especially appropriate for Unicode text, since an Asian
character may have very different display requirements in different
languages (CJKT), and the Han unification brought many of these glyph
variants together.

However, I am finding that browsers are not supporting this in a way
that is useful for Unicode.

What has been working so far is that the browsers can associate
different fonts with different languages. So I might use a Japanese font
such as Mincho for Japanese text and another font for Chinese text.
However, now that there are "Unicode" fonts, if I assign a Unicode font
such as Arial Unicode MS, or CODE2000, to all languages, then I see the
same glyph for a character, regardless of the lang assignment.

I would like to understand why this is. (Bear in mind, I don't know much
more than the rudiments of font technology.)

a) Do Unicode fonts include the language-based glyph variants of
characters, so that a display system is capable of identifying or
hinting which glyph should be used in a particular scenario?

b) If the above is possible, then I assume the browsers have not
implemented language-based selection yet. Are any browsers moving to
using the appropriate glyphs based on language without depending on each
language being assigned a different font?

c) If the above is not possible, then configuring browsers for Unicode
usage is greatly complicated by the need to have a lengthy list of fonts
assigned to different languages. Is there an alternative approach that
can be used, so users can easily view Unicode text and get the correct
display while using a single "Unicode" font?

Ideally (to my mind) I should be able to create web pages in Unicode,
with appropriate lang declarations and get reasonable displays on
systems where a user does not do much more than have available a Unicode
font. However, this does not seem to be the case at the moment.

If it will help I can post some test pages I have been using where I
take a string of characters and repeat them with different lang
assignments. The text looks the same unless I choose to assign different
fonts to each language in the browser preferences.
The examples are trivial so I haven't bothered to post them.

I would be glad to learn if there is another approach which is easy for
users to configure, that gives appropriate text rendering.

Tex Texin   cell: +1 781 789 1898   mailto:Tex@XenCraft.com
Xen Master                          http://www.i18nGuy.com
XenCraft		            http://www.XenCraft.com
Making e-Business Work Around the World
Received on Wednesday, 25 September 2002 14:51:59 UTC

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