Wednesday, 27 May 2009

New fonts from SIL

Dan Everett’s sponsor for his missionary life with the Pirahã (blog, 25 May) was SIL International (formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics), the Christian organization devoted to studying lesser-known languages with a view to translating the gospel into them. Many phoneticians, however, know SIL as the provider of free phonetic fonts for computers: it is they who have given us various editions of the Charis and Doulos phonetic fonts, the most widely used alternatives to Lucida Sans Unicode and Lucida Grande.
Now SIL has announced newly revised versions of the Doulos SIL and Charis SIL fonts. They include a number of new symbols: mainly special Cyrillic letters for languages such as Abkhazian, Bashkir and Chuvash, but also improved versions of some of the ExtIPA diacritics.
You can also download fonts entitled Charis SIL Compact and Doulos SIL Compact. These are identical with the ordinary versions, except that they have a tighter line-spacing. This is a useful improvement, giving in my opinion a much better appearance to a page of text. SIL warns, though, that it may render multiple diacritics on the same base letter illegible on the computer screen (though still OK in the print output).


  1. Thanks for posting about this. Doulos Compact is going to make my life immeasurably better. It's one thing to have increased line spacing in tables and figures, but it's especially annoying when I have a transcription in one line of a paragraph in Times New Roman that messes up the line spacing just for that line.

  2. Indeed, the Compact fonts look better. But there has always been a good workaround to the loose line spacing of the regular SIL fonts: set the line spacing to an exact value (e.g. 14 pt for a font size of 12 pt), not "1 line" or "1.5 lines" or whatever. Then, mixing Times New Roman with Doulos will not affect line spacing, and everything will look just fine. Well, at least in Word and