Localize Your Font: Romanian and Moldovan Comma Accent

  • by Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer
  • Tutorial
  • – Modified on

Romanian S and T with comma accents are easy to make. First, make a new glyph called commaaccentcomb: copy your comma into it, move it below the baseline, and perhaps adjust its size a bit. Often, a normal comma tends to look a little too large. Don’t forget to set anchors (Cmd-U) or reset anchors (Cmd-Opt-U), and you’ll end up with something like this:

Now you can create the comma-accented letters. Hit Cmd-Shift-G and type:

Scommaaccent
scommaaccent
Tcommaaccent
tcommaaccent

And you’re done. It’s that easy, really.

Cedilla Versus Comma Accent

Or wait, not quite. There is one more thing. You may have heard of Unicode. Traditionally, the Romanian comma accent characters were encoded at U+015E (S), U+015F (s), U+0162 (T) and U+0163 (t). So far, so good. Unfortunately, someone named these characters WITH CEDILLA instead of WITH COMMA ACCENT:

U+015E LATIN CAPITAL LETTER S WITH CEDILLA
U+015F LATIN SMALL LETTER S WITH CEDILLA
U+0162 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH CEDILLA
U+0163 LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH CEDILLA

This is problematic because there are other languages which have an S/s with a cedilla, like Turkish, and these languages use the same codepoints U+015E and U+015F. So, how are we supposed to draw the S/s? With a cedilla or with a comma accent?

Do not despair, there is a solution. There are alternative codepoints for the comma accent letters:

U+0218 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER S WITH COMMA BELOW
U+0219 LATIN SMALL LETTER S WITH COMMA BELOW
U+021A LATIN CAPITAL LETTER T WITH COMMA BELOW
U+021B LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH COMMA BELOW

Modern Romanian texts do use the new codepoints, luckily. And Glyphs puts your commaaccentcomb letters there as well.

The locl Feature

But sometimes, you will come across texts that employ the old encoding. For these cases, Glyphs will automatically create an entry in the locl feature that switches scedilla to scommaaccent etc. when the language is set to Romanian. To achieve this, just create your letters, go to the Features tab in the Font Info (Cmd-I), and click on the circled arrow button. Glyphs should produce a locl feature that looks something like this:

As you can see, Glyphs creates not only Romanian feature code (ROM), but also Moldovan code (MOL).

T and t with cedilla

There is one collateral damage, after all of this. To my knowledge, in no written language anywhere on the planet, a T or t with cedilla is used. So what are we supposed to do with U+0162 and U+0163?

There are essentially two ways of dealing with this. One school of thought says, since these codepoints will only ever be used for the Romanian T/t with comma accent, we might as well draw the Tcedilla like the Tcommaaccent and the tcedilla like the tcommaaccent. To do this, just go into Tcedilla (and tcedilla), select everything (hit Cmd-A twice) and delete it. Then, place Tcommaaccent (or tcommaaccent, respectively) as a component in the glyph. You can do that by choosing Add Component from the Layers menu (Cmd-Shift-C) and subsequently selecting Tcommaaccent or tcommaaccent.

Some people say this is not good, because this might lead to the inconsistency that the (wrong) s with a cedilla will appear alongside the (correct) t with a comma accent in Romanian texts. These people, believing that poor design is better than inconsistent design, suggest drawing T and t with a cedilla and putting it in Tcedilla (U+0162) and tcedilla (U+0163), even though these letters do not really exist. If the locl feature kicks in, it will be replaced correctly anyway. So in the worst case, there will be poorly designed letters, but never any inconsistencies. Glyphs creates Tcedilla and tcedilla like this by default.

It’s up to you which way you want to go.

Moldovan

Since Moldovan is the Romanian spoken in the Republic of Moldova, all of the above applies to Moldovan as well. So, Glyphs will automatically produce the MOL (Moldovan) code alongside the ROM (Romanian) code in the locl feature. But, again, there’s one more thing. Moldovan can be written with Latin or Cyrillic characters. Cyrillic is used in Transnistria, a part of Moldova that declared its independence in 1990.

Because of the way Glyphs handles languages and scripts, it cannot automatically produce the languagesystem tag for languages that use multiple scripts, at least not yet. So please take a look at Languagesystems in the Prefix of your font features. It probably looks something like this:

The ROM is there but the MOL is missing. Boo! But this is easily fixed. First uncheck generate Feature automatically, then copy the languagesystem latn ROM; line and change ROM to MOL and you’re all set. This is, apart from other languages that may be listed here, what it should look like in the end:

languagesystem DFLT dflt;
languagesystem latn dflt;
languagesystem latn ROM;
languagesystem latn MOL;

Now your font speaks Romanian and Moldovan! Cool.

[UPDATE 30 August 2012:] As of version 1.3.12, Glyphs will add the MOL language system entry automatically as well. So just sit back, relax, update Glyphs and let it do its magic for you.

Update 2014-09-02: Updated to new glyph names in Glyphs 2.
Update 2016-02-19: Updated screenshots for Glyphs 2.