let's talk Greek kai symbol

Are these, in both cases, expected and useful within basic (monotonic) Greek coverage?
What do we know about what these things should look like?
Is the descending piece supposed to be more akin to, say, an italic /g tail, or an ogonek?
The form of the lowercase should always follow suit of /kappa, I presume?
It sometimes appears with a grave-like diacritic--any guidance on when it should or shouldn't, and what that should look like if different from a gravecomb?

Bonus points for good info on the use and shape of Greek numeral signs U+0374 and U+0375


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,457
    edited February 2021
    think of it like an ampersand in Latin

  • edited February 2021
    The Greek ampersand (let's call it this way, even though I am not sure this is correct) has been a lot on my mind the past years. It is a symbol that has been used scarcely in the past, and has been almost completely forgotten in the past century. And of course replaced by the latin ampersand nowadays.

    The form you are referring to is the form that was used in early texts and mostly in small sizes. There have been several examples of display uses of it on signs and book covers during the last half of the previous century but most of its variations derive from the letter κ with a small tail (the varia as John Hudson notes is long gone). Let me know if you want me to send you some of these examples.

    I think there should be a long discussion about the Greek και abbreviation among designers and relevant scholars working with Greek type design and the Greek language in general so as to answer some questions like:
    • why hasn't it been used extensively in Greek texts?
    • what made it completely disappear the past years and has been replaced by the latin ampersand?
    • do designers need it after all?
    • do we need a new Greek και symbol/character (an equivalent of its latin counterpart)?

    and investigate:
    • what does it take to design a new symbol/character nowadays (one that will be accepted and used by the community)?
    • how could this symbol/character look like? how abstract or close to the initial abbreviation should it be to work?
    Do you think this would be an interesting topic/investigation? Or, do these thoughts have little-to-no value (practically and theoretically)? Are you aware of any similar discussions taking place in the past? (if you do, I would really appreciate any information about them)

    Thanks for raising this topic.

  • I investigated this character years ago and I found quite a lot examples, mainly in shop signage and street lettering. I cannot conclude that it had “completely disappeared the past years", on the contrary. I think it has always been alive in some environments, even if it – no doubt – got under pressure by more recent use of the & (but this is Latin and its use in a Greek line is, well, strange, to say the least).
    I did document a couple of interesting examples but I need to dig deeper into the vaults of my study materials to unearth it. One example I can show, it is a recent one.
    The interesting thing about this character is, that its peculiar descender can take on various forms and different detailing, which is worth exploring with contrasted or even scripty fonts. So it gives the type designer some leeway for original solutions – similar as it is for the & glyph.
    And surely you are aware of the kai being present in the Unicode Standard, both in lower- and uppercase.

    Variant glyphs of kai in one of my typefaces

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,880
    edited February 2021
    Chris, that's a very handsome solution in the upright!
    (And the sample text is funny if I understand it correctly...)
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    edited February 2021
    The most common reason why a sign falls out of use in text is lack of presence on typewriter and then computer keyboards. This may explain why the καὶ abbreviation has become uncommon in printed text but may still be found, as Andreas noted, in signage, handwriting, and other places not reliant on keyboard input.

    I have found photographs of Greek typewriters dating back to the early 20th Century that appear to have included the Latin ampersand instead of the 
    καὶ. Even on my polytonic keyboard layout, the Latin ampersand (Shift+7) is given precedence over the καὶ (Option+7)
  • Yes, there are examples of usage in signs (handpainted or other) as I already mention, however, most of them were constructed more than 40 years ago.

    Also, the lack of presence of a symbol/character on a keyboard is of course a reason why this character is not used, but I think that one has to go back even more and ask, why wasn't there a need to add this symbol to the keyboard? Why did it fail to gain acceptance so that there was no need to add it to a keyboard?

    I think the investigation should start a lot earlier.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    The ampersand seems to have transcended its origins in the Latin script and colonized a more general symbolic space, like monetary and math symbols. 

    I’m sure most people who use it are unaware of its Latin-language geneology.

    Its complex knottyness does suggest a binding together.

    Its “loan” usage, across scripts, is similar to the Numero symbol in Cyrillic.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    edited February 2021
    I think the investigation should start a lot earlier.
    I think the investigation of anything to do with Greek typography should start a lot earlier.  :) — a lot of what is considered standard, e.g. position of accents to the left of uppercase letters, is of very recent origin.

    Perhaps the question to ask of the καὶ sign—dare I try typing it in this forum? will it display correctly? ϗ?—is whether it persisted much at all after the abandonment of Byzantine ligatures in Greek typography? Did it simply get dropped along with the others, and only maintained in some minority usage? Or was there a period when it persisted alone, and only later fell out of use?

  • Yes, valid and interesting questions all of them. It might be the case that it did got dropped away with the rest of the complex and difficult to use greek ligatures of early greek types. But seeing even few uses of it several decades after that period shows an interest or even a need for a similar symbol to exist (at least for the most passionate typographers, designers, publishers, etc.).

    So I would add one more question (a bit more difficult to answer objectively I guess): could it be that the actual form of the symbol (somewhat rigid and unnatural) made it less attractive to use by greek typographers? At least, less attractive than the flamboyant, more fluid and ever-evolving form of the latin ampersand? 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    edited February 2021
    When I added it to some of my fonts (mid 19th century revivals), I used the “scripty” X shape of kappa rather than the angular K, despite making the default κ —basing the design on samples I’d seen in the Printers’ Guide of Van Winkel (New York) 1818. 

    If I’d thought a little harder, I might have used the same form of 
    κ, but I didn’t, perhaps because the scripty shape just looked nice and proper. 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    Interesting observation, Nick. I was also thinking, reading George’s last message, that the ϗ feels a more natural construction when based on the traditional cursive κ (ϰ), and maybe this contributed to its decline in use as more modern types opted for a K-like construction of the letter.
  • I believe that it is a good thing for a greek typeface to include these characters. Why not? They are nice and it is time we stopped using the ampersand in greek text settings. 

    I’ve seen this abbreviation in writing up until the late 19th century (see images bellow). It is actually a kappa with a freestyle curl. I feel it was a chance for the writer to release his creativity. 

    In typography, I believe it was abandoned much earlier. There also used to be another very strange form that served the same purpose, and a kappa-alfa-iota ligature (on the image bellow: Garamond types).

    In lettering, the capital form has survived through the past century, mostly on hand made signs (the sign on the photo was probably lettered post WWII).

  • It is actually a kappa with a freestyle curl. 

    very true.

  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 180
    It is not hard to imagine how these forms might converge with the Latin ampersand in all its variety, such that one cannot rule out the possibility that it has, briefly, sometime and somewhere. It would be easy to design a thing that would be read as either by someone unfamiliar with the other.

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,068
    edited February 2021
    Let's assume that, for whatever reason, the Greek kai symbol has fallen into near-complete disuse. If that were the case (and there's a good argument that it isn't, since if it's present on hand-engraved signs that are a mere 40 years old, that means it was around in 1980) is there still a good reason to include it in fonts?
    Well, of course. The font might be used to transcribe ancient inscriptions. Or, in this case, mediæval inscriptions, as it was noted above as a Byzantine ligature.
    Since the kai ligature is a character on the Macintosh Greek keyboard, even if not given as convenient a place as the ampersand, however, it seems as though it's a character that should be included in every Greek font, not just specialized ones, as otherwise people will be disappointed when they try to type one.
    EDIT: In the case of Windows, however, it doesn't seem to be available on any of the standard Greek keyboards, but it is available on the keyboard of Sibylla, a program for preparing ancient Greek texts on a Windows computer.
  • To what Macintosh Greek keyboard are you referring @John Savard?
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,068
    edited February 2021
    Even on my polytonic keyboard layout, the Latin ampersand (Shift+7) is given precedence over the καὶ (Option+7)

    The polytonic Greek keyboard layout John Hudson is using on his Macintosh, mentioned upthread. I just assumed he was using a standard one provided by Apple, perhaps I was wrong.
    The Macintosh has an Option key, my PC doesn't. Is someone going to tell me that he uses a SparcStation or an SGI Indigo or something?
    EDIT: Ah. I have been able to confirm that the Greek Polytonic keyboard in the MacOS does, in fact, have a kai symbol accessible through the use of the Option key, so, no, John Hudson did not design a custom keyboard arrangement for his own use on the Mac.
    On further reflection, I still did make a mistake. I should have said "on a Macintosh Greek keyboard", since no doubt the kai symbol isn't present on the usual Greek keyboard, only on the polytonic one, which is a more specialized arrangement.
  • But as I understand it the polytonic Greek keyboard is a “specialized” one. 
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,068
    edited February 2021
    True. But it's an option you can select from the menu on your computer, if it's a Macintosh, and so if a font doesn't work right after you make that selection, people may still think there's something wrong with the font.
    But this isn't just about people who click on stuff at random.
    Apparently, the polytonic Greek keyboard is not just of interest to philologists and specialists in Classical studies in Greece.  This was how Greek was normally written and typeset up until 1982, according to Wikipedia.
    So I would expect that the polytonic keyboard is useful for quotations.
    EDIT: I see I'm mistaken about something else, though. According to this site,
    the Polytonic Greek keyboard for Windows does also include the kai symbol. However, even though the font here includes it, this doesn't seem to be happening using the AltGr key on my computer with that keyboard enabled.
    Oh, the image may be referring to a specialized keyboard layout available for a program they mention.

  • I made a custom Greek keyboard driver for the Mac which gives easy access to the kai in both upper- and lowercase. And to a few other special  Greek characters. It is not a polytonic keyboard, though.
  • Can ϗ be used similarly to & to separate the final element of a list? For example, could the equivalent of
    a, b, c, d, & e • A, B, C, D, & E
    be written as
    α, β, γ, δ ϗ ε • Α, Β, Γ, Δ Ϗ Ε;
    In that case kai could be inserted by a templating engine or some other automatic formatting done by a computer, no manual input via keyboard needed to still be relevant for the font.

    I used the & in such a way in the past on websites where the list items were read from a database and horizontal space was at a premium.
  • For what it's worth I use it all the time in my handwriting and I do tend to include it in my fonts. 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    But as I understand it the polytonic Greek keyboard is a “specialized” one. 
    I think that depends very much on the text and the user community. Polytonic and monotonic exist side-by-side as dual orthographies.
  • I think a locl open type feature changing & to και when typing Greek is the easiest way to go.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    But not the Unicode και, one should still respect the integrity of the text.
    sub ampersand by ampersand.kai;
  • Hoo boy, then also some contextual tests to determine whether ampersand.Kai or ampersand.kai should be used?
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,827
    Since & and ϗ are both standard Unicode characters, I am unhappy with the idea of using glyph processing to represent the one with the other.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    Hoo boy, then also some contextual tests to determine whether ampersand.Kai or ampersand.kai should be used?

    ampersand.kai would be the default, with ampersand.Kai in the <case> feature.
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