[XeTeX] New feature planned for xetex

Kamal Abdali k.abdali at acm.org
Fri Feb 19 04:25:19 CET 2016

On Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 7:38 PM, Zdenek Wagner <zdenek.wagner at gmail.com>

> I have compared both and personally I like Jonathan's version. Of course,
> I am not an expert. I do not have any collection of high quality Urdu
> documents. I have only seen Mirza Ghalib's manuscript in his museum in New
> Delhi and some Urdu documents in the museum in LaL Qila. My knowledge of
> Urdu is very weak. Spoken Urdu is basically the same language as Hindi so
> that I can listen to BBC Urdu and understand almost everything but reading
> is difficult for me and I know nothing about calligraphy. It will take me
> hours to read the sample text, I can only recognize from the title that it
> is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Anyway, the larger interword
> spaces do not help me toread the text.
> As an example I am attaching the text from the Jama Masjid in New Delhi.
> Look at the beginning of the first line. There is a considerable space
> between آ and پ although آپ is a single word. The interword space between
> آپ and جامع is smalle that the space in the middle of جامع and there is
> almost no space between جامع and مسجد. There is no space between پر and
> زیارت but I still can see the words. In the third line the largest space is
> in the middle of پرکشش. Of course, it helped me to see the same text in
> Devanagari, I would probably be unable to read the Urdu text without it.


If each word in Urdu (or in any language written using Arabic characters)
formed a connected figure, then any amount of interword space (including
zero) would be OK. But since some letters connect with the next letter and
some do not, words often consist of two or more separate figures. Having
interword spaces then helps to delimit each word. Stringing words together
without any space between them is an incessant source of ambiguities and
problems. That's why all scripts for the Arabic alphabet other than
Nastaleeq now use interword spaces. This forum is not a place to go into
more details, so I'll just give you two examples in the form of
entertaining puzzles. Without interword spaces, you can read a certain Urdu
text (word string) as:

EITHER "He is eighty-four years old."
OR "That thief is eighty years old."

Another one can be read

EITHER "Jamaloo was defeated."
OR "Jumma went to Lahore."

(Jamaloo and Jumma are both common nicknames.) New learners are constantly
frustrated because the printed shapes in front of them provide no visual
help in separating the words. Basically, the script assumes that you
already know what you're trying to learn by reading!

Again, I am not calling for a ban on tight kerning, but I am asking
Jonathan to be flexible about interword spaces for anyone who wants it. At
present most Urdu word processors make it very difficult to overcome
interword space suppression in Nastaleeq fonts.

Kamal Abdali
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