My constructed language has 26 English letters and 30 special characters (plus four different accent marks.) The characters are slightly abstract. The closest I've gotten to producing them is with LaTeX/MathJax (Which offers a wide enough range to produce most of them.) As I go along building vocab/conjugation lists, I've hit a roadblock where I want to write a word down, but it has a symbol in it that I can't reproduce well on whatever sticky note app (or Word!) that I'm using.

Is there any good platform for me to be able to build these lists on, or do I have to do it on paper?

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would recommend using a transliteration into ASCII or something similar which can be more universally used if the correct font is not available. For example, Esperanto uses some uncommon diacritics (ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, and ŭ), which are not always available. As a result people write them by using the letter 'x' which is not used in Esperanto: cx, gx, ux, etc.

Using digraphs or trigraphs you should be able to represent your extra characters; another option would be to append digits, as in a1, a2 for different variants of the letter a.

If your system is unambiguous (like the Esperanto convention), then you can easily convert between it and a proper representation including all the characters.

Note: in German, the umlaut characters are often represented by appending an 'e': ü becomes ue. This is not unambiguous, as there are valid combinations of u followed by e which are not ü; an automatic back-transliteration is not possible. This is something you need to look out for.

  • Transliteration is not really an answer to what this question is asking. – curiousdannii Jul 13 at 14:05
  • @curiousdannii It is. It allows you to write down words in an extended script on a computer when there is no appropriate font present. – Oliver Mason Jul 13 at 14:14
  • Right, but the answer to that is to explain how to make a new font, not to transliterate it. If the OP wanted transliteration they would have said so. – curiousdannii Jul 13 at 14:36
  • @curiousdannii There are many platforms where you cannot use your own fonts, so having a transliteration is a safe and portable way to write down words in an unavailable script, rather than having to use paper. So even if you can make your own font, you might still not be able to use it in a particular editor you have available at a given time. As the OP did not mention transliteration I assume they didn't think of it, and thus offered it as an alternative to creating your own font. – Oliver Mason Jul 13 at 14:40
  • While this lies on the edge of not being an answer, it is useful and I will use it for when I have to jot down a lot of my major notes. +1, and thanks for the idea! – FoxElemental Jul 13 at 17:25

Well, LaTeX is a great platform for writing anything, and you already seem to use it to some success. So I suggest using LaTeX and creating pdf out of it for distribution.

What helps in the long run is creating a font with all the special characters for your conlang. TeX and LaTeX come with a reasonably usable font creation program called METAFONT, but the so created fonts are only usable in the TeX universe—which may be sufficient for you. I have successfully created fonts with METAFONT, and on our partner stackexchange has a lot of people that are willing to help with METAFONT.

  • Does Metafont work well with custom unicode characters? – curiousdannii Jul 9 at 8:08
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    @curiousdannii: Yes and no. TeX and METAFONT are pre-Unicode technology and their approach to character sets is very different than Unicode's. A font is restricted to 256 glyphs. For larger character sets, you need more fonts and select the font for the respective characters. Even 8bit TeX can handle Unicode input and map it correctly to the fonts using macros. – jknappen Jul 9 at 9:26

My inclination would be to simply create a font for my language's writing system, and then use that font in whatever application I'm using to build my dictionary or text corpus. You can then use e.g., Word's autocorrect or an additional program like AutoHotKey to change easy-to-remember/easy-to-type sequences to the specific character from your font - for example, if your writing system has a glyph for the sound represented in English by the digraph ch, you can set up autocorrect or AHK to change ch to whatever your glyph is.

There are many font editors out there; the ones that I would recommend at this point (for Windows; I don't do a lot of language development on other systems) would be FontForge or any of FontLab's font-creation tools (TypeTool, Fontographer, FontLab Studio, or FontLab VI).

You may want to look into getting Fontlab or Fontographer. You can design your fonts in Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator and import them into the font software. From there, create ligatures that can do this.

The good thing about ligatures is that in a search, you can search for the individual letters. For instance, if you use "æ" for "ae" then you search for "ae" and not the ligature.

Sure, there's a learning curve, but it may be better in the long run. Not only will you have your ligatures, but you'll have a font for any texts you create. You can also export to a woff font for web use.

  • 1
    +1 and welcome to Conlang, Krakoom! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Constructed Languages Meta (which requires 5 rep to post on) useful. Thanks for the answer, and have fun! – FoxElemental Aug 1 at 23:58

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