For those who want their Pinyin pixelated — for example, to help reproduce the look of text on an old mobile phone — there’s PixelPlay, which is free.
Text source: I very want your deceitful surface, Pinyin News, October 13, 2005.
Here’s a new book I made for fun: Pīnyīn Dòngwùyuán (4.3 MB PDF).
It goes through the letters of the alphabet: A is for ānchun, B is for bānmǎ, C is for chángjǐnglù, etc., all the way through Z, which is for zhāngyú.
But X is not for xióngmāo. I’m sick of pandas. Let’s let some other animals have some time in the spotlight.
Although technically speaking the Pinyin alphabet is the same as that for English, I prefer to go with A–Z, minus V but plus Ü.
O and R were the tricky ones to find animals for.
Perhaps some teachers will print this out and hang it up in their classrooms. Or kids could use it as a coloring book. You have my permission to do just about anything you like with this — other than sell it or add Chinese characters. (The world already has plenty of material in Hanzi, but not nearly enough in Pinyin.)
I made sure to include multiples of some common morphemes (e.g., bānmǎ, hǎimǎ, and mǎ; èyú and zhāngyú; hǎimǎ and hǎi’ōu; niú, wōniú, and xīniú), which I hope will be useful.
For fonts, I used the Linux Libertine family.
This took me far longer to make than I thought it would, so I hope some people enjoy it or at least find it interesting.
Linux Libertine is perhaps most familiar as the font used in the Wikipedia logo. This surprisingly large font family also works well with Hanyu Pinyin, though a few adjustments need to be made before all of the fonts in this family work as they should with Pinyin texts.
Here’s how those working on Linux Libertine describe it:
We work on a versatile font family. It is designed to give you an alternative for fonts like T*mes New Roman. We’re creating free software and publish our fonts under terms of the GPL and OFL. Please have a look at the paragraph concerning the license.
It is our aim to support the many western languages and provide many special characters. Our fonts cover the codepages of Western Latin, Greek, Cyrillic (with their specific enhancements), Hebrew, IPA and many more. Furthermore, typographical features such as ligatures, small capitals, different number styles, scientific symbols, etc. are implemented in this font. Linux Libertine thus contains more than 2000 characters.
All in all: Not bad.
One of the traditions in advance of Chinese New Year is housecleaning — something not among my favorite activities. But I thought I’d do a bit of housecleaning of half-finished posts and get at least one up before the new year (tomorrow). So here it is.
Although I occasionally bemoan the fact that relatively few font families are made such that they can handle Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks (at least not right out of the box), it’s worth noting that some of the commonly found fonts that do cover all of the letters and diacritics really suck at it and should be avoided when writing in Pinyin.
Typically, such fonts were designed mainly with Hanzi in mind.
Here’s one example:
That was Adobe Ming. Yes, Adobe.
I’ll go ahead and point out the obvious problems:
And I’m not so sure about the consistency of the x-height either. Those stubby little descenders are puzzling, too, but are not necessarily wrong.
Perhaps the designers intended these letters for use in vertically aligned text — though I don’t think these forms would work well even then. Perhaps there’s some context in which these might make sense, though I’m inclined to doubt this. Perhaps the designers have an irrational hatred of romanization and wanted to make Pinyin look as ugly as possible. Whatever the reason, even though this and the other Unicode-compliant fonts below have all of the letters with diacritics that Pinyin requires, using them for Pinyin texts would be a very bad idea.
Since there is apparently still some confusion about why the “?” form (in contrast to the normal “a” form) is incorrect, see the chart below.
Note how the odd form of the letter a does not appear in regular text or even in double-width forms; instead, it’s seen only when accompanied by a tone mark. In other words, even within individual fonts the ? form is treated not as a normal “a” that happens to look that way but as something specifically for Pinyin, which is flat-out wrong. Other than the addition of diacritics themselves, there is no reason to alter letter shapes in any way for Pinyin.
Let’s get back to the broader issue. Here are some more examples of fonts that render Pinyin in ugly ways. (Click image to view PDF.)
To aid Web searches, here’s a text list of the fonts above, none of which should be used for Hanyu Pinyin:
SimSun is probably the least awful of the bunch. But even so, there’s no good reason to use it instead of something else that would do the job much better, such as Gentium:
Generally speaking, if you wouldn’t want to use a font for English, French, Italian, etc., then don’t use it for Hanyu Pinyin.
Say no to making Pinyin ugly!
I wish you all a happy and Pīnyīn-rich year of the dragon.
Since my last examination of the selection at Google Web Fonts the number of font families for Latin Extended has reached 98 [edit: May 31, 2012: 188], with one new face capable of rendering Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks: Noticia Text.
Here are the Pinyin-friendly font faces at Google Web Fonts.
For future reference, the font most recently added to the Latin Extended group is Ruda [edit in May 2012: Chau Philomene One], which doesn’t support Pinyin with diacritics (except, perhaps, through combining diacritics).
Today I’d like to introduce a highly individualistic font family that supports Hanyu Pinyin: Flexion Pro. This one, however, isn’t free.
Flexion was originally designed for the movie The DaVinci Code, which is apt, given how the main character, Robert Langdon, was named after Flexion’s designer (and ambigram specialist) John Langdon. Hal Taylor completed the font.
Here’s part of Taylor’s description:
Flexion is possibly the only symmetrical type design currently available. In keeping with John’s well-know propensity for ambigrams, many of the characters are mirrored to become other characters; the B is a reversed E, the C is reversed to become a D, G is a mirrored P, the K is a reversed N, and so on.
Of course, some of the tone marks will complicate making this work for ambigrams. But since Chinese-English bilingual ambigrams are possible, making Pinyin ambigrams, even with tone marks, shouldn’t be out of the question.
A search for Pinyin fonts at the Open Font Library currently yields 15 font families.
Not all of those, however, really do support Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks. Here are the ones that work, though not always without problems:
I’ve previously mentioned more than one of these: Pecita and the various Gentium faces. I’ll write more about the latter in another post on the work coming out of SIL.
Full list (including fails), for future reference:
When I put up my first post on Google Web fonts (Google Web fonts and Hanyu Pinyin), that site offered 252 font families, 29 of which cover at least parts of Latin Extended. Now, some three months later, the total has grown to 342 font families, with 70 of those covering at least parts of Latin Extended.
Only two of the new families, however, support Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks: Ubuntu Condensed and Ubuntu Mono. That brings the total to eight Google Web fonts that support Hanyu Pinyin: four serifs and four sans serifs.
Here’s what the two new families, Ubuntu Condensed and Ubuntu Mono, look like next to the earlier Ubuntu.
For reference, here’s the total list of Latin Extended, with Pinyin-compliant fonts in bold.
Sans Serif Faces
Display Faces (all fail)
Handwriting Faces (all fail)