Re: [css-text] i18n-ISSUE-354: Questions about letter-spacing for Arabic script

On 07/25/2014 07:57 PM, Richard Ishida wrote:
> 8.2 Tracking: the letter-spacing property
> Editor’s Draft, 20 March 2014
> The length value has the description:
> "Specifies additional spacing between visually-perceived characters.
> Values may be negative, but there may be implementation-dependent limits."
> For cursive text the spec says:
> "If it is able, the UA may apply letter-spacing to cursive scripts by
> translating the total spacing distributed to a run of such letters
> into some form of cursive elongation for that run."
> Does this mean that if tracking length is set to 1em for a word that
> is 6 letters long, that the total length of the resulting text will
> be 6em plus the letter widths, and that therefore if there are some
> letters that are not allowed to elongate the others will elongate
> wider than 1em? Or does it mean that those letters that can stretch
> will each stretch by 1em (possibly resulting in less than 6em overall
> width)?

The former.

> If values are negative, does this have any meaning for cursive scripts,
> or is it a hint to use ligatures if any are available
> (which will result in different effects per font)?

This would allow the use of shortening ligatures or contextual forms,

> And then there are Arabic font styles that don't elongate, such as
> ruq'a. Does the application have to disable letter-spacing  if the
> user or the device chooses a ruq'a-style font, or is that the
> responsibility of the author? It seems that it might be
> hard for authors to signal what to do in the case of fallback fonts.

The application should disable any elongation, yes. It seems unlikely
for a ruqu'a-style font to be a fallback font, however: system fonts
are much more likely to be the newspaper style of writing.

> In addition to these questions, I'm also wondering whether the concept
> of letter-spacing as one might use for, say, Latin text really applies
> for Arabic. For example, elongations are often not uniform even across
> the letters that do elongate. (see the example different-elongations.jpg
> and doha-airport.jpg) As currently defined, letter-spacing seems to
> imply some uniformity across letters where tracking is applied.

No, it just says that you add up the space that would have applied,
and then distribute it in some appropriate way. The idea is to "make
this line feel looser"; how the space is distributed to make it looser
is going to depend, though. But it should end up with text that is
less dense somehow, regardless of script.

The alternative is of course to always ignore letter-spacing applied
to Arabic; but I think the instruction to be "less dense" is worth
preserving if possible, and we might as well let UAs experiment to
see what's useful here.

> What may be more useful for cursive scripts like Arabic is the ability
> to specify the overall width of a piece of text, and let the application
> produce elongation according to rules to fill that space. Note that
> this is different from what I described above (6 letters example) in
> that the overall length includes the space taken up by the letters
> themselves - it's more like justification.

Yes; I'd implement this by

   min-width: 6em;
   text-align: justify-all;
   text-justify: kashida;

Except we don't have that last value yet. :)

(Actually, the right solution is a little more complicated than that
due to the desired fallback behavior. But that's a discussion by itself.)

> Most of the stretching I've seen appears to be more concerned with
> filling a given horizontal space than ending up with an unpredictable
> overall width that is driven by the letters selected.
> For example, many signs that include arabic and english make the
> arabic and english the same width, one above the other. The
> degree of stretching is determined by the overall width, rather
> than just by making letters wider.
> Even in single-line, non-bilingual situations also it appears to me,
> though I admit I'm not certain at all, as if the desired overall
> width is often what drives the amount of stretching, rather than the
> desire to just have wider characters. See for example the Macdonalds
> advert attached.

I agree. Arabic likes to exploit its "stretch to fill" ability in
graphic design. :)


Received on Saturday, 2 August 2014 07:04:06 UTC