Improving diacritics and accents in Libertinus

Linguistic data is often presented in a wide range of glyphs with many modifications on them, such as accents, and from a variety of scripts: á, ô, ẅ, ɖ, ⁠ɓ⁠, ð, ʎ. These typographic demands put considerable constraints on font selection. At Language Science Press, we use Libertinus for Latin and Greek base glyphs and modifications.

Our workflow at Language Science Press is built on free and open software (FOSS). Most prominently, we use XeLaTex as a typesetting engine to produce our books. But the fonts we use to typeset our books can be considered FOSS as well. One advantage of using actively maintained FOSS fonts is that improvements to the fonts can be applied in a very short time frame, which enables us to accommodate authors’ needs very quickly.

This blog post is about how particular requirements arising from different books can be accommodated by extending the open Libertinus font.

Coverage as a factor in font selection

Selecting a font can be a complex issue, especially for a scientific publisher in linguistics. For one, font selection is a matter of layout and aesthetics. But there’s also a more technical side to it, and that concerns coverage: it should not be necessary to switch the font for particular glyphs. By offering to publish in a diverse range of sub-disciplines, the fonts for a linguistic publisher must provide all the glyphs needed by those disciplines. For our Studies in Diversity Linguistic series, we need a high coverage not only in Latin base glyphs, but in accents and diacritics as well. On the other hand, our Empirically Oriented Theoretical Morphology and Syntax series depends on typesetting formulas with all sorts of logico-mathematical symbols, such as relations, operators, variables, delimiters, etc.: ①, Σ,→, ⟦…⟧ Additionally, our quantitatively oriented series profit from mathematical type of numbers and equations (as in “p < 0.005”).

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Writing AVMs easily in LaTeX: The new langsci-avm package

Attribute-value matrices, also known as feature structures, are used by various theories to describe linguistic objects and their complex properties. Among others, they are used in HPSG and LFG, and so several of the books submitted to Language Science Press depend on a comprehensive and user-friendly way to input them to LaTeX.

An example structure created with langsci-avm. See the Section “Example 1” below for how to create this AVM.

Our users almost always use the avm package or the extended avm+, of which an unkown amount of modified versions are circulated online. The original avm package is not a bad package at all, but it has not been updated for some years, which has led to problems. For example, some of the versions assume that the old font selection commands, \it, \bf, etc. are still used, which should be avoided in modern documents. Continue reading