[XeTeX] "new-babel", was: Ancient Greek hyphenation

Jonathan Kew jonathan_kew at sil.org
Mon Apr 23 22:27:09 CEST 2007

On 23 Apr 2007, at 8:50 pm, Arthur Reutenauer wrote:

>> There's a difference, I think, between switching language (which
>> affects hyphenation, and possibly some low-level details of
>> rendering), and switching script (which happens at some language
>> changes, but not all). Maybe this needs to be more explicitly part of
>> the model.
>   Right, this is something I've never found quite satisfactory (I mean
> on a theoretical point of view) with the way things work currently  
> with
> Babel. On the other hand, if you take the Latin script (or the  
> Cyrillic
> or Arabic, for that matter), we're far from having any font that  
> covers
> every possible language, so it's still desirable to set a default font
> when switching languages.

I'm not convinced of this. If I'm using \setmainfont{...} to choose  
my overall document font, I don't want each \selectlanguage{...} for  
various European languages to reset the font to some default for each  
language; I want my chosen font to be used for English, French,  
German, Spanish, etc.

What if I switch to a language such as Vietnamese or something  
African that's much less likely to be adequately covered by many  
Roman fonts? Or to a language written in a non-Roman script? Well, we  
could have font selection built into the language-switching command  
for such languages; but it's always going to be tough deciding which  
ones are sufficiently "exotic" to justify this, and there will be  
situations for which we get it wrong. Suppose we make \selectlanguage 
{hindi} automatically switch to a Devanagari font... then the user  
chooses a *different* Devanagari font... then will \selectlanguage 
{nepali} revert to *its* default Devanagari font, rather than keeping  
the user's chosen one? This doesn't feel right to me.

The alternative is that we keep font and language separate, so that  
it's up to me as author to either choose a document font that *does*  
adequately cover all the languages I plan to use, or explicitly  
change fonts for the languages where it's necessary. As author, I can  
of course create personal commands that encapsulate a language switch  
and a font switch, according to the needs of the particular document.  
Or if the language-switching package provides appropriate "hooks", I  
can add my chosen font-switches to it on the fly. But I don't think  
we should have language changes causing font changes by default (as  
some Babel languages currently do, IIRC).

Maybe it would be clearer if \selectlanguage were renamed  
\selecthyphenation or something like that. "Select language" has too  
many possible interpretations.


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