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Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 1:34 pm
by Jason Hare
This thread is for the discussion of whether or not to create a tag specifically for the Syriac language.

For example, [syr‎]ܫܠܡܐ[/syr‏] would stylize the word ܫܠܡܐ \ שלמא with some Syriac font that we all choose.

This thread is for discussion about possible font sizes and appropriate cross-system fonts for the display of Syriac characters.

For those who don't know, Syriac is the form of Aramaic used in Syria around the time of the formation of the Christian Church. It is important to biblical studies because of the Peshitta, one of the earliest Christian translations of the Bible.

Lately, we have been discussing Jeremiah 25:9 here on the forum, and the language has come up there in discussion - hence, our question about the need for a language-specific tag for using Syriac on the forum.


Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:33 pm
by S_Walch
I'll quote from the Jer thread in here, and answer accordingly:

Kirk Lowry wrote:Steve,

What is the electronic source of your text? What font do you expect to use? Which writing system do you want to use? Is it primarily for displaying/quoting the Peshitta?

I can set up a BBCode for Syriac like I did for Hebrew, but we need to have an agreement on these things. The text and font must be freely and easily available, and the font needs to be capable of rendering all diacritics, etc.

I was using both my original source (here), and Jason's (here) to see if there was any difference (there wasn't).

I did however make it look somewhat more legible by wrapping it in

Code: Select all

tags, and changing the font size to 150.

As for the font choice, whatever would be easiest really. I see the Syriac on the above linked webpages absolutely fine. Checking the source code, all my original source has is font-family: Assyrian; in the CSS style, which to me looks like it's a native thing now for most OS's (unless there was something fancier in the code that I couldn't find - possibly hidden in a style-sheet somewhere).

Jason Hare wrote:That depends on the support of the individual's display system. The Syriac that you pasted shows up fine for me on both my tablet (Surface 3 [Windows 10]) and on my telephone (Huawei Honor 6x [Android]). Syriac certainly doesn't have the same support today that Hebrew has (the wide range of font options, etc.), but it displays fine, IMO. I mean, the text is UGLY, but it's LEGIBLE.

Yeah I'm on Windows 10 myself, so see the Syriac okay, but yes, rather ugly on the forum. It's also legible on my Samsung S7 Edge (so, Android 7/Nougat).

Kirk Lowry wrote:Now we need a UTF-8 encoded copy of the Peshitta to test the font on our forum. Suggestions?

I refer to the previously linked sources above :)

Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 2:49 pm
by Jason Hare

I'm away from my computer right now. Yes, there is something you're missing in the code. I'll get in there and point it out later if no one else does. Have a good day.


Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 8:17 pm
by Michael W Abernathy
Personally, I can barely read the Syriac font and I'm so near sighted the font looks like a little squiggle. That said go for it. But I would prefer it if you would include a transliteration into the Hebrew font with that so I can practice my nearly non existent Aramaic.
Michael Abernathy

Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:02 pm
by Jason Hare
Michael W Abernathy wrote:Personally, I can barely read the Syriac font and I'm so near sighted the font looks like a little squiggle. That said go for it. But I would prefer it if you would include a transliteration into the Hebrew font with that so I can practice my nearly non existent Aramaic.
Michael Abernathy

It certainly wouldn't transliterate automatically - especially if people paste the vowels on top of the Syriac. That would be up to the individual poster to do for him/herself (and for the sake of the forum readers). If something shows up in Syriac and isn't clear for you, just ask. I'm sure someone can transliterate it for you into Hebrew letters. If I'm around, I'll do it for you. ;)


Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:49 pm
by Jason Hare

This is now the second time that I’m writing this post. I got nearly finished with it about five minutes ago, and then the computer/tablet (Surface 3) froze on me. Since I was writing it on the browser, everything that I wrote was lost. I’m starting over, so I hope that this isn’t missing anything that I had already thought through and composed and simply don’t have the strength to write again. Old age… it gets all of us one day or another.

(1) “Assyrian” isn’t the name of a font, as far as I know. I think the author of the page was simply designating a font for embedded use. This is why he (she?) was using @font-face, which embeds a font on the page. panose-1 is an obsolete descriptor for @font-face. The page isn’t well written for this and other reasons. There is no font file associated with the @font-face to tell the system where to pull the font in order to embed it. This means that it’s just pulling from the default font that you happen to have on your system. If you didn’t have a font that contained the glyphs for Syriac, it wouldn’t display the characters – but it would simply place squares where the characters were supposed to be. The page itself defaults to “Times New Roman” (which doesn’t have the glyphs for Syriac) and “Serif,” which would include the “Estrangelo Edessa” font mentioned before (if you have it on your system) or any other serif font that contains the appropriate glyphs. I know that it defaults to Times New Roman and Serif because the paragraph bodies contain the .MsoNormal class, which has the following design:

Code: Select all

 p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {
    margin: 0cm;
    margin-bottom: .0001pt;
    text-align: right;
    direction: rtl;
    unicode-bidi: embed;
    font-size: 12.0pt;
    font-family: "Times New Roman", "Serif";

(2) It wasn’t a great idea to tag your Syriac with [heb‏] tags. It would have been better to have an [rtl‏] and then use a [size‏] tag, as you’ve done. Why? The [heb‏] tags stylize the text with “SBL BibLit” and “SBL Hebrew,” which – though they are amazing fonts – obviously do not contain the necessary glyphs for Syriac. It’s just a waste of a tag, except that it has the right-to-left designation. That’s the only benefit of that tag to your Syriac: that it makes it larger (which you said you also did by the addition of the [size‎] tag) and overrides the normal text direction.

If we want to really support Syriac on the forum for all modern phones, tablets and computers, we would need to embed it in the stylesheet server-side. This means uploading the font (probably Estrangelo Edessa) to the website and embedding it in the global stylesheets for the forum. I’ve had limited success doing this with some fonts on my forum. For a while, SBL BibLit embedded perfectly – on all of the systems that I checked it on. Then, suddenly, it stopped working. It shows up on my computer (which has SBL BibLit), but it doesn’t show up on my phone, even though it’s embedded.

Either way, we can just hope to make it available for as many people as possible. Maybe someone who knows better than me can really make it work cross-platform.

I just checked on font availability. I wasn’t aware that Estrangelo Edessa was a for-sale font from the Microsoft Corporation, but it apparently costs $49 (source). I thought it was free, since it’s always been on my system.

That would certainly be the first font in the family. I’m not sure what font is used on Lynix or on Mac to display Syriac. Mac default fonts, as far as I know, display everything.

I would wonder, though, if it’s absolutely necessary to define fonts for display for Syriac. Either it’s on the system or it’s not. I’d just suggest making the font-size bigger and using a Unicode bidirectional tag.

Code: Select all

<span style='font-size: 130%; line-height: 130%; direction: rtl; unicode-bidi: bidi-override;'>…</span>

Something like that. The font family will take care of itself on most systems.

What do you think?


Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:59 pm
by Jason Hare
I just tested the above code on my own forum, and it works fine for Syriac.

Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:38 am
by S_Walch
Cheers, Jason.

I had only 'inspect the element' on my original source, rather than checking the page's source code. Would've seen all the styling going on in the <head> if I had!

I'll admit this is the first time I've even seen 'panose'. Googling shows that it was removed from CSS2.1 back in 2011, so yeah, quite the old-style font specification. I'll presume this is for older browser compatibility (if there ever was such).

As for Estrangelo Edessa, according to the Microsoft Information page on it, it's been an embedded font to Windows since Windows XP, so most persons running a Windows OS should have it on their system fine. Adding it as a part of the @font-face should be sufficient :)

...unless you're on Windows 10, when you will have to download it as part of a language pack - source!

Just checked my installed fonts on Win10, and I certainly don't have it there.

Must be okay to embed it to BHebrew, and have it on the server side than expect people to download it.

Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:54 am
by Jason Hare
I don't know that we're legally allowed to embed it.

Re: Should we create a [syr] tag?

Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:04 am
by Kirk Lowery
Sorry about the delay in responding. I got caught up in the US Thanksgiving holiday and travel. But I'm back in the saddle again! ;)

In a subsequent post, I will be getting technical and maybe only Jason will care, but I need community feedback as we proceed. So bear with me and skip over the parts you don't understand or don't care about.

  • The KISS principle: "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"
  • In an ideal world, the forum member should not have to install a particular font. The text should be readable from default fonts available on the three major OS platforms: Windows, OSX (Apple) and Linux.
  • The text should render all standard consonants, vowels and diacritics. It should also be large enough that those with eyesight issues can read the Syriac without effort. A larger font size will disturb the line spacing when embedded into English (Latin) text, but that's okay. It's what happens now with the [heb] tag.
  • Embedding a Syriac font server side, so that all devices will have access to it, is theoretically possible. That is, I have administrator access to the server as well as to the software that runs our forum. (Which reminds me, I've got a new release of phpBB to install. :oops: ). But it will take a bit of research and maybe some expert help to accomplish this.
  • We need to survey what Syriac fonts are available out there, especially free fonts. Google Noto fonts claim to cover all the Unicode defined Syriac scripts.
Comments or concerns about the above? What have I missed?

My next post will start actual experimentation. This is where I'll want feedback from all of you about its legibility.