Communities developing resources and competencies for using their languages
Foundational understanding for language development work of all kinds
Publications, fonts and computer tools for language development, translation and research
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SIL's dedication to language development past and present
(December 2017) SIL International released eight fonts in 2017—three new fonts plus five major releases of enhanced fonts.
2017 New Fonts
Alkalami [Arabic script]
Awami Nastaliq [Arabic script]
Tagmukay [Tifinagh script]
2017 Updated Fonts
Annapurna [Devanagari script]
Lateef [Arabic script]
Padauk [Myanmar script]
Tai Heritage Pro [Tai Viet script]
Nokyung [New Tai Lue script]
Creating fonts requires more than just the shape of the letters. The engineering behind those letters has to work properly, too, to make sure that any extra marks or alternate letter shapes end up in the right places.
To support information exchange by speakers of non-majority languages, SIL font designers and engineers also work with other industry leaders in font technology to improve the usefulness of these technologies (such as OpenType™). For years, SIL’s Graphite has been on the leading edge of font technology for rendering complex scripts, and the Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) team continues to encourage others in the industry to incorporate Graphite capabilities into a wider range of commercial technologies.
SIL font engineers further developed Graphite capabilities to enable proper display of the Awami Nastaliq font, one of SIL’s most important 2017 font releases. An Arabic script used for a wide variety of languages in southwest Asia, Nastaliq’s unique calligraphic style differs from standard Arabic in that words are written along a sloping baseline from upper right to lower left. The SIL Graphite rendering engine was extended to better handle these complexities properly. Using the Graphite rendering technology, Awami Nastaliq is the only freely-available font to provide an authentic Nastaliq style.
(6) SE Asia
(4) S Asia
(3) E Asia
To date, SIL supports 27 released font families, with another three in development. Non-Latin, non-Arabic scripts account for 21 font families (1 family per script), while 5 families are available for the varying styles of Arabic languages. Another four font families (3 serif, 1 sans serif) support Latin, Cyrillic and Greek scripts, each font containing a core character inventory of some 3,600 individual glyphs (letters, numerals, punctuation and other symbols). Andika, widely used for literacy, includes several optional letter shapes particularly helpful in materials for new readers.
Since its inception in the 1930s, SIL has been involved in font and typeface-related work. In the early days, this might have meant simply shaving off a portion of a typewriter key to produce a variation of an existing letter. Today, SIL font designers create robust font families using sophisticated vector-based font editing computer software. The technology scope has changed dramatically in the intervening decades, as well, from a primary focus on printing words physically on paper to displaying content on a multitude of electronic devices.
SIL fonts—and the technology making it possible to type and display the fonts correctly—enable a wide range of language development capabilities. Speakers of a given language can produce written materials in their own language and strengthen literacy among children and adults alike. Font technology also facilitates language cataloging and preservation, and helps computer programmers write code accurately for applications that enable speakers of a language to further use and document their language.
“Congratulations for your new Awami Nastaliq font which is successful. When I saw your PDFs I was amazed. The font was great and beautiful. When I reviewed and checked if all of the letters from different languages were included, I found out that they were usable for so many languages.”
“Let me say that I cannot thank you enough for developing such a great Nastaliq font. It is extremely helpful with my work and I can honestly say that I have not encountered another Nastaliq font that comes close to the quality you provide, especially for the price.”