Cyrillic lowercase shha (һ) - ascending vs non-ascending

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  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 800
    Look at uni04B6, uni04B7, uni04B8, uni04B9, uni04BA. All these glyphs are based on Cyrillic Che (uni0427), che (uni0447). So it's strange the lowercase shha (uni04BB) to be based on the Latin lowercase "h".

    But, Stefan, consider this:

    Most of the Turkic languages that use this character have historically been written with several different scripts, depending upon political and cultural circumstances.

    For many, they were first written with some version of Arabic script (and perhaps a more ancient script before that). Then, it appears that many that came under Soviet control were first switched to a version of Latin script, where the (ه) was represented with ‘h,’ naturally enough.

    So, then, when Cyrillic script was adapted for these languages and needed a new character for this phoneme (not used in Slavic languages), would it be so strange to adopt the Latin ‘h’ rather than some variation of ‘ч’?

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,138
    edited October 2017
    @Kent Lew
    No disdain for history, in fact it's arguably the best source for gleaning what not to do. :-)  The need for constant improvement –versus the coziness of historicism– wills it.

    My own stance from the get-go:
    http://typedrawers.com/discussion/comment/20711/#Comment_20711
  • So please be informed that there is no way in written Bulgarian text to have situation like [space]й[space].

    Indeed. Nor in written Russian. Since while и is the vowel I, й is the consonant Y in Cyrillic.

    But then, there is a way to have [space]y[space] in the Latin script... if one is writing in Welsh.
  • ...or, for that matter, in French. But in both cases, y is acting as a vowel. As far as I know, Cyrillic does not engage in such shenanigans; letters are either vowels or consonants, and do not change roles from one language to another.

    As for the primary topic of this thread, since the upper-case shha (Һ) already looks like a lower-case Latin h, having the lower-case shha look the same - only narrower, perhaps, would make the two characters quite hard to distinguish. So the x-height one, which follows the precedent of Ч and ч, would seem to be the only reasonable choice. I doubt that a native speaker of Russian would come to a different conclusion.

    Of course, such appearances can be deceptive, and so if native speakers of the languages in question, as opposed to other languages using the Cyrillic script, expect the other form, because that's what they've been reading all their lives, attempting to improve on what they are familiar with would only betray our ignorance. Natural scripts, natural languages, and many other cultural constructs often contain things that would seem, based on abstract principles, to be illogical or unreasonable.


  • Kent Lew said:
    Not that I don’t have plenty of respect for Maria, Krista, and Ksenya, and I would welcome their perspectives.
    As they run "Cyrillic advisory services", certainly it is possible they have access to sources associated with native speakers of the languages in question, even if they themselves are Russian, so that's quite reasonable.

    That's what makes it different from just asking any native speaker of English from off the street how to design ß - it is indeed true that being a speaker of English gives one no special insight into the shape of that character, and being a speaker of Russian will not be directly helpful in addressing questions about shha either, for the same reason, exactly as John Hudson pointed out.
  • ...or, for that matter, in French. But in both cases, y is acting as a vowel. As far as I know, Cyrillic does not engage in such shenanigans; letters are either vowels or consonants, and do not change roles from one language to another.
    Actually, in Ukrainian, й can be written as a separate word. It’s a variant of the conjunction i (‘and’) that is sometimes used after a word that ends in a vowel. In this case it denotes, as it normally does, a y-like consonantal pronunciation, here fused with the preceding word.
  • Actually, in Ukrainian, й can be written as a separate word. It’s a variant of the conjunction i (‘and’) that is sometimes used after a word that ends in a vowel. In this case it denotes, as it normally does, a y-like consonantal pronunciation, here fused with the preceding word.
    And that should not have surprised me, given the Russian words for "in" and "with", в and с, which are the consonants for V and S, that look like B and C, standing as separate words.

    However, since it is fused with the preceding word and not the following one, I'm almost surprised they didn't use ь instead of й, at least when the preceding word ends in a consonant. Oh, this is the Ukrainian word corresponding to the Russian word и, "and", so they use the vowel i in that case, as you noted - I was about to comment on how this word could easily be confused with и, differing only by a diacritic, but that's not an issue, since it's not a separate word with a completely different meaning.
  • Kent Lew said:
    Look at uni04B6, uni04B7, uni04B8, uni04B9, uni04BA. All these glyphs are based on Cyrillic Che (uni0427), che (uni0447). So it's strange the lowercase shha (uni04BB) to be based on the Latin lowercase "h".

    But, Stefan, consider this:

    Most of the Turkic languages that use this character have historically been written with several different scripts, depending upon political and cultural circumstances.

    For many, they were first written with some version of Arabic script (and perhaps a more ancient script before that). Then, it appears that many that came under Soviet control were first switched to a version of Latin script, where the (ه) was represented with ‘h,’ naturally enough.

    So, then, when Cyrillic script was adapted for these languages and needed a new character for this phoneme (not used in Slavic languages), would it be so strange to adopt the Latin ‘h’ rather than some variation of ‘ч’?

    Good arguments, Kent. Maybe I must consider again my position. Thank you!
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,138
    edited October 2017
    Kent Lew said:
    would it be so strange to adopt the Latin ‘h’ rather than some variation of ‘ч’?
    It might be formally less strange, but keeping in mind which cultural influence is probably more dangerous (in terms of assimilation) in the long term, probably also less wise. The Armenian «հ» is not an exact parallel, but for almost two decades I've cautioned against borrowing the Latin form for that reason, even though it's been in use since the 19th century, and has been the most common form since the 1980s.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 800
    I can understand your caution in the case of Armenian, which had its own vital script history and tradition going back centuries.

    But in the case of relatively young [post-Petrine] Cyrillic, and then even more so for amendments made in the 20th century to accommodate new phonemes and apply to new orthographies, I don’t know if the argument is as strong.

    Bear in mind that this particular character seems to come into existence only with the “Cyrillisation” (Кириллизация) of the 1930s, and only immediately after the “Romanization” (Латинисация) of the preceding decade, imposed on the various local non-Slavic languages falling under the USSR.

    My primary point is that an ascending “h-like” form seems more historically and linguistically apropos (to me now, anyway — my own “considered decision”).

    I suppose one might then choose whether to make the arch more “Cyrillic” — whatever that might mean (if it even means anything).
  • The h-form is definitely much more common based on the Bashkir signage I've seen. However, I would pull a Hrant and base shha on ч rather than h. Yes, the h-form is more appropriate for the sound it encodes, but the ч-form looks more Cyrillic and the current distribution may be influenced by the choices made by the designers of existing fonts. If your font becomes as nauseatingly ubiquitous as Lobster, you might be able to buck the trend.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 197
    edited October 2017
    There is a third option. Split the difference.

    That is, distinguish lower-case shha from upper-case shha by having it not quite as high, while not limiting it to the x-height.

    Of course, that's taking a liberty, since it involves adding a new parameter, a sub-ascender height; also, in some typefaces for the Latin script, ascender height is clearly greater than cap height, in which case simply making the h-form of shha use normal ascender height would be sufficient. (Use the h-form for those typefaces, and the ч-form for typefaces where cap height and ascender height are indistinguishable?)

    However, it's not necessarily certain that just because the transition from Latin to Cyrillic happened (relatively) recently that the Latin form is what they're used to seeing in Cyrillic. There is no substitute for "ground truth" here.

    The Soviet type specimen book image suggests both that the h-form was used in Cyrillic and that there was no upper-case shha. As with eszet, of course, there would still be all upper-case texts, but still if it can't begin a word, distinguishability between the upper- and lower- case forms is somewhat less of a priority.

    Of course, it is never a non-issue, because these days, what about

    Һ = SIN(3.1)

    in a case-sensitive computer programming language? (That, of course, is also a case for making all sans-serifs, particularly the monoline ones, look more like Bell Gothic. Or at least providing alternates. But that isn't happening.)
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 800
    suggests [...] that there was no upper-case shha
    but still if it can't begin a word, distinguishability between the upper- and lower- case forms is somewhat less of a priority.
    I don’t know why on earth you jumped to that conclusion!?

    Here are just a handful of words starting with һ taken randomly from the front page of the Башҡорт wikipedia site: һаулыҡ һаҡлау һәләте һәр һәм һуңғы һуғыштың — including the very common һәр “every” and һәм “and.”
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 197
    edited October 2017
    Kent Lew said:
    I don’t know why on earth you jumped to that conclusion!?
    In George Tulloch's post, showing the non-Russian characters in a Soviet type specimen book, there's a character looking like "h" among the lower-case characters, but there's no character looking remotely like a shha among the upper-case characters.

    So, based on that as my only evidence concerning those languages, it was an entirely reasonable conclusion, even if completely wrong.

    Incidentally, the site

    https://ba.wikipedia.org/wiki/Башҡорт_алфавиты

    illustrates the Bashkir alphabet with the h-form.

    Also, I managed to find an image of a Bashkir newspaper clipping which also illustrated the h-form.
  • Kent Lew said:
    I don’t know why on earth you jumped to that conclusion!?
    In George Tulloch's post, showing the non-Russian characters in a Soviet type specimen book, there's a character looking like "h" among the lower-case characters, but there's no character looking remotely like a shha among the upper-case characters. [. . .]

    No, the upper-case character is present in the table — it's just that the order of the caps is by oversight different from the order of the lower case. Look for the character numbered 244!
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 197
    edited October 2017
    Thank you, I see that now.

    I think it's reasonable to hear what native speakers think on the subject. So I wrote a letter to people in Bashkortostan and here is the list, which I received, with the most often used fonts. The list is strange :)

    Looking at those fonts, though, it is now clear how the upper-case and lower-case shha are differentiated when the h-form of the lower-case shha is used.

    While the h-form has a lower part that extends up to the x-height, the upper-case letter is not only wider, but the lower part is significantly lower in height than the x-height. Having the work of type designers some of whom are native Bashkir speakers to look at answers all the questions!
  • Stefan PeevStefan Peev Posts: 63
    edited October 2017
    Look at the free font Sreda by Елена Ковальски. She is a type designer. Lives in Ufa - the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia. I'm trying to get in contact with her and I'm sure her answers and suggestions will be very helpful.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 197
    edited October 2017
    Ah, so it actually is Bashkortostan. I had thought the correct name was Bashkiria.

    I see that in Sreda, the lower part is higher than the x-height, differing from what I saw at the web page of popular typefaces there. However, looking at that page again, I see that not only is Sreda also there, but that my initial impression that the fonts with the h-form and the characteristic in question were likelier to be locally designed could be mistaken - instead, looking more carefully, it seems like the fonts are mostly all from outside sources, and there is no one form that really predominates.

    However, my current impression that instead of the fonts being locally engineered versions with Bashkir characters added, they are simply standard fonts with Bashkir coverage included in their Unicode coverage may be mistaken as well. It turns out the page is not a listing of the most popular typefaces there, but instead is a type specimen of the free fonts included in a 67 megabyte ZIP archive the page exists to distribute.
  • @John Savard The official name is Башҡортостан, with ҡ having an IPA /q/ sound. In Russian it's often called Башкирия, but this is an unofficial name.


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