Where is Arabic Italic originating from?

Where is Arabic italic coming from? We have cursive calligraphic styles in Latin but such styles don't exist in Arabic. 
Found this on Wikipedia:

In the 1950s, Gholamhossein Mosahab invented the Iranic font style, a back-slanted italic form to go with the right-to-left direction of the script.

But I'm still not convinced if we design Arabic italic just for the sake of having italic style in Arabic or we really need that?!

Comments

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,421
    I’ve heard complaints from type designers that they get stuck drawing slanted styles for branding projects from big agencies where nobody can fathom that italic/oblique letters just aren’t a thing in Arabic.
  • Bahman EslamiBahman Eslami Posts: 43
    Italic is not only slanted, it's another construction model. Arabic has many different construction models. They don't have to be called italic. They could be called whatever they're already called.
  • Khaled HosnyKhaled Hosny Posts: 171
    I have been toying with the idea of creating an “italic” style of a Naskh typeface based on Indian style of Naskh, as it seems to work well for being slanted and has enough contrast with the regular that is not available with mechanical slanting.
  • Em KarimifarEm Karimifar Posts: 11
    edited May 12
    Italic is not only slanted, it's another construction model. Arabic has many different construction models. They don't have to be called italic. They could be called whatever they're already called.
    Bahman could you elaborate on those construction models? Do you mean the calligraphic scripts that look cursive or slanted? (like the way Yanone has used Ruq'a for Amman?)

    ––
    Is it fair to say that mechanically slanting letterforms might be a legitimate way to make Latin Italics but it is not the case for Arabic? 
  • Bahman EslamiBahman Eslami Posts: 43
    edited May 14
    Personally I'm not fan of only slanted italics. Bringing idea of italic in Arabic is forced by softwares and is not serving a function in Arabic. A person did a research on how you could emphasize words or have same effect of italic on Persian readers. The video is here (sorry there is no english subtitles). He's saying slanting in either directions does not have emphasizing effect. Using keshide is a better option. But there are many manuscripts showing usage of different calligraphy styles in one text column. Unfortunately I can't find examples at the moment. My point is construction of Naskh, Thuluth, Ruqah, Nastaliq, ... are different. You can use this as a starting point. It's not easy to come up with one unified family containing some of these styles. But I can't buy into the idea of slanting Arabic and also naming it italic or iranic or whatever. It's fundamentally wrong.

    Edit:
    .The video contains slides with english text. It could help non-natives to get some of the points he's trying to make.
    .The link to the researcher's website if you want to ask more information on his research. He can speak english btw. 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,145
    My point is construction of Naskh, Thuluth, Ruqah, Nastaliq, ... are different. You can use this as a starting point.

    As a starting point, yes, but one also needs to bear in mind that some of these styles are also size-specific, so their distinction is like Latin text vs titling faces, e.g. naskh vs thuluth.

  • Khaled HosnyKhaled Hosny Posts: 171
    edited May 15
    Not including slanted version will not prevent people from using it in Arabic since most software will give them auto-slanted versions any way but these will be broken in various ways (e.g. completely off mark positioning), and the same applies for bold. So including slanted and bold versions in Arabic fonts is a pragmatic choice, otherwise if I’m typesetting text I almost never use them.

    Including a different calligraphic style in place on italic or bold is novel idea, but is not what the users expect since they will look like completely different typefaces. That like using black letter as bold companion for a roman typeface. People expect a different styles of the same typeface to be still recognizably similar.

    There is not also much history of emphasizing text in Arabic typography. I have seen Nastaliq used in old books but only for single words, overline or even underline is also used rarely. I have seen bold (usually a different typeface as well) in books from 70s/80s as well. So if people are using italic now why not?


  • Sahar AfsharSahar Afshar Posts: 5
    edited May 15
    I agree that if you don't come up with a proper alternative, uninformed users (which are the majority) will just use the auto-slant version and and as a designer you don't want that--though I've had the experience of working with clients who insist on slanted. When that happens, what can you do? There is a practice of emphasizing text in Arabic typography. For many years it was done by using a bolder weight, or putting words in angled (or occasionally round) brackets, as well as using larger size:
    Using other calligraphic styles could also be an option, and again it's not a novel idea, I've seen it done in many old Persian advertisements, but I don't currently have access to my collection and can't provide pictures. I've found that a lot of people tend to use a Ruqa' based style as an alternative to slanting, but then if you use that for text sizes it can truly disrupt reading and be more distracting than anything else.   

  • Georg SeifertGeorg Seifert Posts: 461
    Proper (Latin) italic type is based on a different writing style just like blackletter (just not as different). And I read some books with a very nice italic that distracted me quite a bit. 
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 15
    If an "Italic" style is supposed to serve as way to emphasize snippets of text (which is almost all of the time) what matters most is slant, not construction differences (that can effectively disappear at text sizes). Additionally, a Roman is designed to convey a certain voice, and an Italic with markedly different construction arbitrarily distracts from that voice. Disciples of chirography denigrate the slanted-Roman philosophy due to an urge to evoke black-painting (natural Italic territory) and tend to over-compensate, resulting in very pretty Italics (or worst of all, "upright Italics") that simply don't do the job.

    When contemplating what an "Italic" in Arabic needs to be (with emphasis being a useful concept in any writing system) consider the reader, not Manutius's shotgun-wedding of Roman and Italic.
  • SiDanielsSiDaniels Posts: 217
    <EM> > <I>
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 639
    edited May 15
    FWIW I've long advocated using a ~demi weight for emphasis (assuming a sufficiently controlled rendering environment) but that notwithstanding:

    What to me is most relevant about an emphasis-style in Arabic is slant direction: some people strongly object to backslant (meaning "/" direction) while others point out that's how a right-handed person (most people) slant the letters the faster they write.* Needless to say this last bit of logic does not jibe with my own views, and I find the "\" direction more pleasing (and reader-expected) myself.

    * In fact in the earliest know Qur'aan the writing is backslanted.

    A similar discussion occurs in Hebrew, although there opinions seem more relaxed.
  • Bahman EslamiBahman Eslami Posts: 43
    There are practical problems with slanting Arabic though, a word with no vertical lines like “حب” will not stand much (if at all) when slanted: “حب”, so structural differences are important in Arabic, though they might not even help much here either.
    I can’t even tell from first glance which is the slanted one!
    Khaled this is exactly the point the researcher in the video I posted above is trying to make. Latin has a vertical rhythm but Arabic doesn't have that. If users don't see the difference and it's not functioning what's the point of slanting in Arabic? Your example on blackletter next to Roman is extreme. I was talking about construction not a complete different style. Of course the difference has to be subtle but it's possible to use even Ruqah and make it more unified with the naskh as an alternate for emphasizing. It's called designing a family. Putting different styles next each other is a typographer's job not a type designer.
  • Liron Lavi Turkenich made some good observations about emphasis in rtl text in her talk at TYPO Labs: 
  • Em KarimifarEm Karimifar Posts: 11
    edited May 17
    Thanks all for sharing your thoughts.
    Initially, I saw this typeface and found the slanted directions really disturbing and wondered what the italic construction models, if there are!



    Not including slanted version will not prevent people from using it in Arabic since most software will give them auto-slanted versions any way but these will be broken in various ways (e.g. completely off mark positioning), and the same applies for bold. 
    I agree in Arabic typefaces, there must be a counterpart for Latin Italics because of these technical reasons, even though it's not that slanted.

    Using other calligraphic styles could also be an option, and again it's not a novel idea, I've seen it done in many old Persian advertisements, but I don't currently have access to my collection and can't provide pictures. I've found that a lot of people tend to use a Ruqa' based style as an alternative to slanting, but then if you use that for text sizes it can truly disrupt reading and be more distracting than anything else.   
    Yes, it is not a novel idea and we've seen examples in history of Arabic typography but I'm curious if that's simply because there haven't been other options? Have we had Arabic Italic in early movable types?!

    There are practical problems with slanting Arabic though, a word with no vertical lines like “حب” will not stand much (if at all) when slanted: “حب”, so structural differences are important in Arabic, though they might not even help much here either.
    I can’t even tell from first glance which is the slanted one!
    ...I was talking about construction not a complete different style. Of course the difference has to be subtle but it's possible to use even Ruqah and make it more unified with the naskh as an alternate for emphasizing. It's called designing a family. Putting different styles next each other is a typographer's job not a type designer.
    I agree that the shift in style can be really subtle. But (also responding to Hrant's comment) the calligraphic styles to choose as a starting point can be the ones that have the slant in their nature. I think in a multi-script context having a Latin italic besides an Arabic italic that is upright causes visual imbalance. 
    Zapfino Arabic is a good example of combining Nastaliq and Naskh to create that italic face:

     


  • Em KarimifarEm Karimifar Posts: 11
    You can also watch Nadine Chahine explaining her decision-making process for Zapfino here:

  • Sadly I haven't been able to keep up with this thread, but did want to throw this into the mix:

  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    edited May 26
    There are several basic properties in most scripts that can be used for differentiation of voice: 

    1. Color — this has been used e.g. in blackletter manuscript (usually red was used for emphasis)
    2. Size of letterforms — larger is emphasized
    3. Density — tighter (more condensed) or looser is emphasized 
    4. Weight — the thicker strokes stand out so they emphasize 
    5. Different writing tool — contrast vs. no contrast i.e. “serif” vs. “sans” for Latin 
    6. Speed of writing 

    The last aspect is interesting because it effectively modifies the skeleton of the letterforms, usually following the following pattern: 

    • faster writing is more round and has more curves and fewer corners while slower writing is more “rectangular” and has more straight lines and more corners  
    • faster writing tends to be more connected 
    • faster writing tends to have some kind of inclination (slope) while slower writing favors more perfect straight or upright or perfectly horizontal lines. 

    In short, this can be reduced to a juxtaposition between static and dynamic.

    Dynamic forms (rounder, faster, more cursive) look more human-made than mechanical, more emotional than rational, more informal than formal, more subjective than objective. 

    • Latin lowercase is more dynamic than Latin uppercase
    • Latin italic is more dynamic than Latin roman
    • Japanese Hiragana is more dynamic than Japanese Katakana (Hiragana is used for native Japanese words while Katakana is for foreign words so it's “more mechanical”)

    I think in any writing system, contrasting a more static skeleton and a more dynamic (cursive) one will work. But the specific strategy how to achieve the cursifying will differ based on the script.

    But my guess is that for every script, the reader will be able to tell the difference between the more formal, careful, static, mechanical forms and the more casual, quick, dynamic, human-made forms. 

    I’d recommend basing there “italicization” efforts on this strategy. Using naskh vs. ruqa is a good example. Or using other styles that are more cursive, meaning “quicker”, less static. 
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    In German, italic type is called “kursiv” (quick, fluent), similarly in Polish (“kursywa”). I think it’s much better conceptually. Inclination (slope) may be one aspect of cursifying (italicization) but doesn't have to be the only one. 
  • Em KarimifarEm Karimifar Posts: 11
    ...
    6. Speed of writing 

    The last aspect is interesting because it effectively modifies the skeleton of the letterforms, usually following the following pattern: 

    • faster writing is more round and has more curves and fewer corners while slower writing is more “rectangular” and has more straight lines and more corners  
    • faster writing tends to be more connected 
    • faster writing tends to have some kind of inclination (slope) while slower writing favors more perfect straight or upright or perfectly horizontal lines. 

    Yes, there is a nice contrast between static and dynamic styles but I just can't quite accept the logic. In writing, you never speed up your writing in order to emphasize a part of the text.

    In other words: do you mean that we use cursive (italic) style to emphasize a piece of text because it implies faster/dynamic forms or just because it creates a contrast with regular/static (roman) style?
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    edited May 26
    Sometimes you do the opposite — when you're writing and you're writing someone's last name or address or a foreign word, you slow down and write that with extra care. But it creates the contrast based on this aspect nonetheless.

    Which is also true for katakana vs. hiragana. My ad hoc theory regarding the two kana types is that they are inherently the same letters but familiar language elements were written quickly so in that role, the kana became hiragana (round and cursive) while foreign words were “spelled” with extra care so in that role, katakana (slow and more “rectangular”) evolved. 

    The same contrast exists in Latin lowercase vs. uppercase — in handwriting, Roman uppercase is sometimes used to spell out proper names (e.g. last names in French) because in handwritten use scribes slowed down and “drew” the capitals, which, by the sheer reduction of speed and the extra care put into the act made the portion of text more legible. 

    So probably going in the other direction may be useful as well — for example, using a more kufi-style emphasis within naskh flow text. 

    In Latin printing tradition, the pairing of roman and italic types and using the latter for emphasis was sort of accidental and came relatively late. I don't think it was a conscious choice.

    But it became associated with some properties of the more cursive italic. For example, providing objective narrative in roman and quotes from people in italic works intuitively, because the italic hints at its closer association with handwriting, so text set in it may appear more subjective, personal.  
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    edited May 26
    In the late 16th century (and in German-speaking lands much later) a practice existed where the native languages were often set in blackletter type or in italic, while roman type was used for insertions in the Latin language. Below are two excerpts from the 1594 book “Nowy karakter polski”, published in Cracow, that discusses Polish orthography. You can see that Polish is set in blackletter or italic, while Latin in roman. Today, with the Latin script, it’s more common to see the main text in roman and foreign words in italic.

    But my main point is that the opposition between “static” and “dynamic” has a solid foundation in, I would say, many writing systems (because it roots in a very simple, natural distinction between “careful lettering” and “quick writing”, so it’s an inherent aspect of every act of writing). I postulate that mixing the two styles can be used for emphasis or to set apart “voices”. It can be done both ways (dynamic inside static or static inside dynamic). 

    Best,
    Adam







  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 224
    I'm not convinced by your katakana/hiragana distinction. Using katakana for foreign words is a relatively modern function.

    Both hiragana and katakana evolved from the Man'yogana script of the Man'yoshu, and both initially functioned as syllabic representations of native Japanese words, but they develop ed from different calligraphic styles of Chinese lettering. If anything the distinction was by gender. Hiragana emerged as a simplified form of the full ductus of the character, and was used mainly by women in literature. Katakana was derived from the manyogana syllables not by simplification but by abbreviation (taking a representative part of the kanji) and used mainly by men.

    Either way the foreignness doesn't really come into it.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 70
    edited May 27
    Sorry, not the right thread :3
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 269
    Simon, 

    The male-female opposition can also be made for Latin uppercase vs lowercase, or for Latin roman lowercase vs italic lowercase. 
  • Georg SeifertGeorg Seifert Posts: 461
    The male female distinction is not about stile but actual usage. I never heard about that distinction in European writing. 
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