Which glyphs in SmallCaps and/or Petite Capitals?

mauro sacchettomauro sacchetto Posts: 353
edited March 2022 in Font Technology
The sense of Small Caps could be to have the lower case in the form of upper case and the sense of Petite Capitals to have the upper case in the size of the lower case (more or less).
As long as it is |A| and |a|, the situation is clear.
But when am I dealing with glyphs that seem to have no such alternative? I refer for example to U+01BB, U+01BE, U+01C0-3: how are these glyphs to be understood? Does it make sense to produce a .sc or .pc version?
I see that in Brill font there are many glyphs rendered as SmallCaps, but they don't run out of all lowercase letters. On the basis of which criterion was the choice made?
Thank you


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,722
    There are some characters in Unicode that are lowercase only letters, and you are right that there is a question about how those should be handled in smallcap text setting. Note how I phrase that question: this has to be thought about in terms of typography, not in terms of text encoding or font feature standards. Put another way, the answer is going to be typeface specific and depend on the kind of texts and typography for which the typeface is intended.

    In the case of the Brill types, I provided smallcap variants for a lot of lowercase only characters because of the nature of Brill’s publishing, especially in the area of linguistics, and their typographic use of smallcaps in running headers and subheads. My general approach was to provide smcp lowercase-to-smallcap mappings for any characters that occur in natural orthographies, as distinct from those that occur only in phonetic transcription notations (and yes, there may be some inconsistencies where I was doubtful about the use of a character and erred to include in smcp).
  • mauro sacchettomauro sacchetto Posts: 353
    edited March 2022
    This all seems very reasonable.
    Let's assume then to exclude a priori the IPA Extensions area (0250-02AF) and the Phonetic Extensions area (1D00-1D7F). Is it correct?
    However, other glyphs remain: in Latin Extended B I find Dental Click, Lateral Click, Alveolar Click and Retroflex Click (U+10C0/3) which are used in some languages of Africa, but of which frankly I have never found the .sc version. and which apparently do not have a capital or lowercase version.
    The same for Reversed Esh Loop (U + 01AA) and Two with stroke (U + 01BB): abstractly, if they are uppercase they could have a .pc version, if they are lowercase a .SC version. But how should they be considered, uppercase, lowercase or neither?
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 225
    edited March 2022
    My approach is quite simple: what is part of phonetics and has no uppercase counterpart in another realm, is lowercase-only. All those characters you did mention are in my lowercase-only, phonetic block. If and when I get aware of additional usage, I will add the complete UC, LC, SC and PC set.

    To make things easier, I copied the block below as comma-separated names. Please note that .da (design alternate) and .la (language alternate) are special variants I use, but are probably unnecessary to anyone else.


  • So do you exclude the IPA Extensions area (0250-02AF) and the Phonetic Extensions area (1D00-1D7F)?
  • Igor FreibergerIgor Freiberger Posts: 225
    edited March 2022
    No automatic criterion works here. You need to check one by one to be sure. The problem is that IPA was part of early Unicode versions. Later, some uppercase counterparts were added in different Latin extensions. But not all lowercases are part of a set. So these pairs are sparsely encoded, without any schema.

    The IPA Extensions block:

    And what we actually have here:

    • Light gold: characters which have uppercase pairs in other Unicode blocks. So, if you plan a comprehensive font with small caps and petite caps, these characters will have UC+SC+PC.
    • Light red: ideally, these IPA characters will match your petite caps so you save some work here. LC=PC.
    • Light blue: an uppercase character with lowercase pair. The only opposite situation in this block. So you need SC+PC.

    Similar verification needs to be made in all Latin and IPA blocks.

    Finally, a word about rotated or mirrored glyphs: you can use a component flipped or rotated if you have a stress of 0° (like the captures above) or the font is a sans with no contrast. But this will fail for other design styles because the contrast will be reversed. To get perfect glyphs, there is no scape from laborious work.
  • Thank you for your useful scheme. Now I'll reconsider all
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