Typing Syllabics on your Computer: Installing what you need via LanguageGeek

Finding fonts and keyboards to type syllabics is an issue that many people struggle with. Here’s a first try at presenting and explaining what is needed and why. It would be great if someone would volunteer to be a guinea pig (guinea Ratt?) and follow these instructions, to help me see where further clarification is needed! This is fairly technical stuff, so it demands some patience and persistence. But patience and persistence are Cree specialties, right? (Hey! Should I mention that I’m available to help with this in person if anyone wants to hire me!) 

Chris Harvey – who calls himself a Language Geek – has been a friend of the Cree Literacy Network for many years, since his grad work in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba. His Language Geek website is a terrific resource that provides free tools for many languages, including the fonts and keyboards we use for writing Cree in syllabics.

As Chris explains, you need to choose two items to proceed: a Unicode Font and a Keyboard Layout. Here are the choices recommended by the Cree Literacy Network for writing in y-, th-, n- or l-dialects.

  1. Unicode font: Aboriginal Sans Serif 
    1. Cree Literacy Network prefers Aboriginal Sans Serif for two reasons:
      1. Not all fonts are created equal. Pre-Unicode fonts look good on your own computer, but when you put them in email or on Facebook, they appear as random characters. Unicode is an international encoding standard for use with different scripts, where each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programs. You need to be sure the fonts you choose are Unicode compliant. Aboriginal Sans Serif is unicode compliant.
      2. Unicode provides unique codes for all possible characters, but some Unicode fonts omit some characters. When a Unicode font is missing characters you need, you will see empty boxes where your characters should be. Aboriginal Sans Serif includes all the characters needed for Cree (in y-, th, l, and n-dialects).
  2. Keyboard Layout: Nēhiyāwēwin-Ininīmōwin-Ililīmōwin (Cree).   
    1. “Keyboard Layout” software controls what shows up on screen when you type.
    2. Most computers use Canadian or American English keyboards by default. To type syllabics, you must install a syllabic keyboard layout. Various keyboard layouts work side by side on your computer: you must choose which one you need as you need it.
      1. On a Canadian or American english keyboard, typing the keys QWERTY gives you the letters qwerty.
      2. On a Cree syllabic keyboard, typing the keys QWERTY gives you various syllabic characters, depending on the typing style you choose.
    3. Choose your typing style: One-Key or Build-a-Syllable 
      1. One-key gives one character for each keystroke, either full syllabic: like ᒧ,ᔦ, and ᒐ, or a final: like ᐤ, ᐨ, or ᐦ. Combining symbols, e.g. the mid-dot ᐧ, are typed separately.
        1. This system works best for proficient readers and writers of syllabics.
        2. Click here to see a map of the one-key keyboard: http://www.languagegeek.com/keymaps/pmwiki.php/Main/Crk-cwd
        3. Some people print out this keyboard map on stickers, and attach stickers on top of your existing keyboard to show them which keys to type.
      2. Build-a-syllable. These keyboards have you type consonants and vowels separately. To type ᐃ, simply use the ‘i’ key. To get ᑫ,  type ‘k’ + ‘e’. More information on these can be found in each keyboard’s keymap pdf.
        1. This is the system preferred by the Cree Literacy Network, because typing in SRO (with a few modifications) produces syllabics onscreen.
        2. Click here to see a map of the build-a-syllable keyboard:  http://www.languagegeek.com/algon/syllabics_keyboards/2010keymaps/CreeWestern.pdf
    4. If you’re not sure which typing style you might prefer, it’s just as easy to  install both and see which works best for you.
  3. Now you know which font and keyboards to choose, you are ready to follow the LanguageGeek Font and Keyboard Installation Tutorial: 
    1. For Windows Computers
      1.  http://www.languagegeek.com/faq/tutorial.html
    2. For Mac Computers
      1. http://www.languagegeek.com/keyboard_general/MacNoPkgInst.html

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, launched in 2010 with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.

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One Response to Typing Syllabics on your Computer: Installing what you need via LanguageGeek

  1. georgina cardinal says:

    I would love to learn sylabics

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