Polish: the ł_ł ligature revisited

This matter has been puzzling me for quite some time.

I don’t know if this has been discussed previously nor do I know how many font makers care about the ligature łł for Polish. In my opinion it is an important one.
I wonder what might be the appropriate solution for the stroke. As Adam Twardoch has demonstrated, in script style typefaces a single stroke above the l’s, possibly with a wavy touch, would be the preferable choice. But I’m not sure if this solution would also be the best one for e.g. mainstream sans or serif text fonts.
By now I can imagine these five potential models:

Which one would be the best?

Next question: is there also a special requirement for the capital version?


  • I'm not a Polish speaker, but your 1st and 5th options look a lot like Jagietto. It would be helpful to see what your 't' looks like.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 255
    I’m no expert on the matter, but I think #5 is the most similar to two individual glyphs. However, to avoid the mistake of confusing it with /t, maybe the slash could just be a little steeper across the two, similar to the slant of the single glyph? My two cents.
  • Russell McGormanRussell McGorman Posts: 250
    edited July 2018
    Perhaps number 5 with the "wavy effect". 

  • Khaled HosnyKhaled Hosny Posts: 289
    How do your łł look like with no ligature at all? It looks like the most legible option (in other fonts) in my ignorant eyes and there is no clash to be fixed by a ligature.
  • I think there could a clash... The two glyphs side by side can be distracting, even if they don't collide. I can see how it might be desirable to mitigate the effect. I don't believe they need to actually touch, but their weight, length and/or angles could be adjusted, however subtly, so that when they're paired they don't stick out like sore thumbs.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 704
    edited July 2018
    Copy a Polish text by hand, write it out to see how it should look. Same goes for the ogonek. Go on, give it a try. :)
    A Pole will have the ultimate answer, but in my opinion the whole thing is done to avoid confusion with the t, so only 3 or 4 is right ( is there a difference anyway? Ascender height should dictate how long you make the l's)
    The sound itself is an L, but made with the cheeks, and is called ew. What I am more concerned about is the naming it in the most robust way, so it can show correctly in all or most ecosystems. Should it be lslash_lslash?
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,911
    I don’t know if this has been discussed previously nor do I know how many font makers care about the ligature łł for Polish. In my opinion it is an important one.
    What makes łł an important ligature? This is the first time I’ve ever heard of it. Are Polish graphic designers complaining about fonts not having this ligature? Or is it just a common feature of Polish handwriting that would be nice to have in fonts?
  • James makes a good point. Does it really look that bad with two regular łł's side by side?
  • Does "does it really look that bad" not mean it could look better? :)
  • How about simply offsetting the two slashes in łł vertically a little bit to avoid collision?
  • Dan ReynoldsDan Reynolds Posts: 163
    I am with James and Theunis here. I am not at all convinced that Polish readers need us to swoop in and create a ligature (that would have no basis in historical practice) that they have not been asking for. Because we think it would “look better.” There are plenty of young type designers active in Poland today. Maybe ask them for their opinions by e-mail, etc.
  • For #1-4 I wouldn't even have guessed that it's łł. As for #5, increase the angle (make it more diagonal) and it's gucci.
  • The first is wrong because it is similar to latin small letter middle welsh ll 
    The second to fourth are not recognisable as anything.
    The fifth is the best IMO, and preferable to łł
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 704
    edited July 2018
    Ask ze Poles. Everything else is speculation.
  • Bhikkhu PesalaBhikkhu Pesala Posts: 210
    edited July 2018
    Asking a Pole is unlikely to be of any help unless they also know about font design, ligatures, and archaic orthography. Even a learned Polish linguist may never have seen the words printed using a font with ligatures, so they might expect to see only two l slashes because that is all they know. 

    It is far better trust a font designer's instincts for what looks right and is easily legible. If in doubt, do nowt, i.e. don't add the ligature or make it a discretionary ligature
  • Thank you very much for this well-informed statement, @Jan Pietkiewicz. I see that I may have ventured for too much of a good thing, apparently. Following A. Twardochs elaboration on the matter I was under the impression that a łł ligature does have some merits for Polish typography, not only with script fonts. But it seems to be not the case.

    Thank you all for your opinions, dear colleagues. – And now a thread about the most useless ligatures in general?
  • Jan PietkiewiczJan Pietkiewicz Posts: 17
    edited July 2018
    An łł ligature makes sense in a script font, because in Polish handwriting (including both historical calligraphy and letterforms taught to schoolchildren), the ł is written with a vertical or a wavy stroke above the l (rather than a diagonal one in the middle). There the two strokes in łł would naturally meld together, like so:

    In order for your examples #2-4 to be correct (i.e. consistent), you would also need to have a regular ł with a top stroke, but that's simply not a done thing in roman type.

    I would say that the version #5 is acceptable as an adventurous novelty, best relegated to discretionary ligatures set. Some readers will find it odd or affected, but it is more or less legible.

    An argument could be made for a much subtler łł ligature, as suggested by @Russell_McGorman. If the pair looks exceptionally busy in a given typeface, I don't suppose it would be a crime to ever so slightly shorten the stroke in the first ł, for example.

    The main thing to remember is that the actual application for such a glyph is very limited. Still, you have the chance make some designer working on materials concerning  Władysław Jagiełło or Hugo Kołłątaj very happy.
  • On reflection, I did once make a lslash_lslash ligature, but it simply involved a slight raising of the first slash and a slight lowering of the second slash to avoid too much activity in the same place between the letters.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 704
    I am so glad one more phenomenon is clarified :)
    • is there a list of combinations of this glyph that never occur?
    • Can it stand at the beginning of a word, so the first part is capitalized and the second be lower case? Was it different historically?
    • what is it's history in case we are making medieval and other period fonts :smiley:
  • Jan PietkiewiczJan Pietkiewicz Posts: 17
    edited July 2018
    Vasil Stanev said:
    • is there a list of combinations of this glyph that never occur?
    I'm not sure what do you mean by "this glyph": the regular, single ł or the esoteric and perplexing ł_ł.

    According to my quick-and-dirty analysis of data from an open Polish dictionary, the ł appears in bigrams (two-character combinations) together with about any other letter from the Polish alphabet. The possible exceptions include: ć_ł, f_ł, l_ł, ń_ł, ś_ł, ź_ł, but they may still turn up in proper nouns (for instance, f_ł features in Aerofłot, the Polish transcription of Аэрофло́т). Here are the pairs sorted by frequency:
    ał	326851<br>ła	205018<br>ły	122808<br>ło	116014<br>ił	67510<br>łb	66929<br>łe	57379<br>łu	37184<br>ył	34519<br>pł	23724<br>oł	23443<br>sł	23236<br>eł	20867<br>kł	20616<br>ół	20301<br>gł	19828<br>dł	17899<br>zł	14800<br>łk	13915<br>ęł	12589<br>tł	10788<br>uł	10304<br>bł	10240<br>wł	8925<br>łą	7614<br>łó	7303<br>hł	7166<br>ął	6703<br>łę	6253<br>łt	5904<br>łc	5208<br>łz	4562<br>mł	4459<br>łn	3873<br>łg	3403<br>rł	3205<br>łs	3095<br>łd	2561<br>łp	2182<br>łw	1702<br>żł	1419<br>łm	1298<br>łż	890<br>łr	661<br>łź	520<br>łl	423<br>cł	414<br>łł	403<br>jł	271<br>łf	259<br>łś	253<br>łi	205<br>łć	187<br>łj	102<br>łh	81<br>łń	66<br>nł	21

    If what you're after are the combinations of ł_ł with other letters, the list gets much shorter:
    ełł	251<br>łła	113<br>ółł	112<br>łły	112<br>łło	76<br>łłb	33<br>ołł	22<br>łłe	22<br>łłą	14<br>ułł	10<br>łłs	9<br>łłu	9<br>iłł	8<br>łłó	2<br>łłę	2

    But do keep in mind that my data doesn't account for proper nouns, such as the colorful names of historical Grand Dukes of Lithuania: Jagiełło, Skirgiełło and Świdrygiełło.
    Vasil Stanev said:
    • Can it stand at the beginning of a word, so the first part is capitalized and the second be lower case? Was it different historically?
    If you're referring to ł_ł, then no - there are no words beginning with it and, to my best knowledge, there never were any. As I mentioned before, this particular letter/sound combination is exceptionally rare and hard (or at least weird) to pronounce in Polish, and a word beginning with it could possibly appear only as a jocular neologism in avant-garde poetry.
  • Jan, dziękuję for all this excellent input.
    But the copperplate capital find is a marvel. I will be dreaming of this.
  • So that's why doing / t with tall bar is very wrong. Cool
  • I don't know about t's with tall bars, but I've definitely seen t's with diagonal bars ;)
  • I wanted to say stems, you see???
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,640
    The resulting list is relatively short (about 180 entries) .... I think this conclusively demonstrates that type designers would be best advised to put some other glyphs at the top of their to-do lists.
    And here I was thinking 180 was quite a lot.

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