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Department of Linguistics


Phonetic Fonts: Creating and Editing Documents Using "Charis SIL " Font

Robert Mannell, 2009

In this page I will assume that you wish to create a Word document (or a document with some other word processing software such as Open Office) containing phonetic characters.

Creating Your Document

Before doing anything else, make sure that you have successfully installed the Charis SIL font.

Using a recent version of Word (or Open Office or other word processing software) open a new document.

For the whole document, select the "Charis SIL" font. It may suffice for you to simply select the font as soon as you open a new document and before you type anything. How you select the font varies for different word processor software and even for different versions of the same software. Once you have selected the Charis SIL font you should keep an eye on what font is selected from time to time and make sure that Charis SIL remains selected. Modern word processing software can be very "helpful" and might try to impose some other default font in some circumstances. For example, in tables or in headings the font is likely to revert to the default font.

I would recommend that you set the font size to a fairly large size. I find that a 14 point size is a good size for reading phonetic diacritics without error. It can be difficult to read smaller sized serif phonetic characters on screen and this especially applies to the diacritics (the small modifier characters attached to other characters).

Open Richard Ishida's IPA Character Picker Web site

Richard Ishida is the the "Internationalisation Activity Lead" at the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). He is heavily involved in developing and expanding the use of Unicode fonts for the presentation of the many national writing systems on the web. He has developed a number of web sites that easily enable people to create appropriately encoded text containing characters for many languages. He has also worked on a "web picker" for the IPA phonetic characters.

Ideally, for national writing systems, a specialised hardware keyboard with appropriate symbols on the keys would be developed but this isn't very practical for the IPA as all IPA users also have a primary language in which they do most of their writing so their keyboard hardware reflects that. What one can get is keyboard mapping software (usually commercial software that you will need to pay for) where you can, for example, press the "{" key and get a phonetic character on the screen. A web picker removes the need to buy keyboard mapping software and Richard Ishida's resources can be used free of charge.

When you reach the IPA Web Picker page, via the following link, the Charis SIL font should already be selected (this link has been set up to ensure this). To create some phonetic text click on the symbols in the IPA chart on the web site and the character will appear in the text box below the chart. For normal English symbols that are also part of the IPA you can either choose them from the chart or simply type them in using the keyboard. You can edit text in that box if you wish (for example you can delete mistakes). Don't type an entire document into this box. Periodically select what's in the text box (use the "select all" button below the box to do this). Then press control-C (Mac: command-C) to copy the IPA text into your operating system's "clipboard". Then go to your new word processing document, and click on the point where you want to insert the phonetic characters. Then press control-V (Mac: command-V) to paste the IPA text into your document. If all has worked well you should see phonetic text appear in the serif phonetic font Charis SIL (check to make sure that this is still the selected font either before or after pasting the new text). Before entering some new text into the web picker clear its text box by pressing the "Delete All" button below the text box.

Click here to open the web picker page

Save your document. If it is an assignment document you should be able to email it without needing to embed the font. This is because you have been careful to ensure that you have selected Charis SIL for your document (and have ensured that it stayed selected) and you know that we also have Charis SIL installed.

IMPORTANT: Don't ever type in the character "g" (unicode character 103/0067) when doing phonetic transcription as this will result in a non-phonetic glyph shape (g with a closed loop descender) when using the Charis SIL font. Instead, choose the phonetic "g" glyph from the web picker (the phonetic "g" unicode character 609/0261).

Don't Ever Do the Following

Don't ever cut and paste phonetic text from PDF documents. For example, PDF documents might contain phonetic characters but these documents often save them and display them using an embedded font. If you cut and paste from PDF you will bring the new font and it's encoding into your own document.

This advice also applies to PDF documents on this site. Some of our PDF documents still have phonetic text in them that uses old ASCII mapped fonts. If you cut and paste we probably won't be able to read them (as we no longer have these old fonts installed) and you will need to re-create the document from scratch.

We will eventually remove all such PDF documents from this site and replace them with documents containing Charis SIL but this will take quite a while (as there are lots of them) and this notice will remain here until that process is complete.

In the meantime, for students submitting assignments, this is not merely "advice". It is a strict requirement.

You Should be Able to do the Following (but be very careful)

You should be able to reliably cut and paste phonetic characters from HTML files on our web site (not the entire Macquarie University web site, only the "Speech Resources" part of the web site). You may, however, need to keep a close eye on what font gets selected in your word processor. I just now cut a character from a Charis SIL formatted piece of web text in one of my own web pages and pasted the character into a Word document which had Charis SIL already selected. Word changed the selected font to Arial. This is because the default Unicode font in Word is Arial and details of the original font don't get copied when you copy and paste from a web page (so Word selects its default Unicode font). I then needed to select the pasted text in the Word document and change the font back to Charis SIL.

Be very careful about selecting phonetic characters from other web sites. These days they should be Unicode encoded characters on the web, but you will certainly need to reselect Charis SIL after pasting them into your document. One of the main problems in selecting phonetic characters from other web sites is that there is sometimes more than one code point (underlying number code) for what looks like the same symbol. The writer of that web page may have used a character similar to an IPA character and we may not be able to see it using Charis SIL because it only looks like a phonetic character (and only when a font has been selected that contains that character). So, for any document that you are submitting to us  (e.g. assignments) don't cut and paste from other web sites.