In collaboration with Canadian Indigenous communities, Typotheque has successfully submitted two proposals to Unicode, the international encoding standard for different languages and scripts, to allow the creation of complete Unified Canadian Syllabics fonts, part of which involves adding the missing code points to Unicode. And after rigorous research and collaboration with Nattilik and Carrier communities in Canada, we were also able to design fonts that change the standards of future Syllabics fonts.
The Lava Syllabics typeface expands the Syllabics typographic palette by offering a secondary cursive style. As there are no historical manuscript sources for this, we analysed the informal Syllabics handwriting of Indigenous people to observe the effect of fast writing, and compared this to the formal typographic model. The result of this analysis was a secondary style that allows for a new means of graphically expressing the language and a design that provides new possibilities for Syllabics. Read more about the development of the Syllabics secondary style in this essay.
Regional Typographic Preferences
The Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics (UCAS) supports several Indigenous languages in Canada across the continent. Although the term ‘unified’ is applied to the character set, there are many languages that do not see their typographic or orthographic preferences represented correctly. Dene communities have a specific preference for the ‘square’ form of the Syllabics, which is distinct from the standard ‘round’ Syllabics used elsewhere. We provide a number of Stylistic sets that allow the standard forms to be replaced by forms preferred by specific dialects. Read this essay about the Syllabics typographic guidelines and local typographic preferences.
Tailored Glyph Set
Lava Syllabics includes the full Lava Extended Latin set, thus supporting most of the Latin-based languages worldwide. We have also made a number of modifications to the set. For example, we have tailored Latin punctuation marks to be positioned – and in some cases proportioned – to match the height and inherent proportions for the Syllabics glyphs.
While the Lava Syllabics fonts focus on delivering high-quality typographic solutions for the Syllabics writing system, comprehensive support has also been provided for the Roman orthography needs in each language that uses the Syllabics. Through research and investigation into the standardised Roman orthographies for each of the Syllabics-using Indigenous languages, the supporting Latin glyph set has been defined to cover all languages in Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics.
Lava Syllabics was designed by Kevin King, and published in 2022. Kevin has worked with Nattilik community language experts Janet Tamalik McGrath and Elisabeth Jansen-Hadlari on the Unicode proposals, and has received support from Liang Hai. Kevin has also worked closely with Carrier Syllabics experts Francois Prince and Dennis Cumberland to successfully propose changes to the representative characters for the Carrier Syllabics in the UCAS code charts. The original Latin version of Lava was designed by Peter Biľak in 2013.