Orthography Tools and Font Support
The resources and tools collected in the tabs below are intended to assist the composition of text in the official languages of the Northwest Territories through correct orthography. Developed primarily for internal use, they can hopefully improve accuracy, speed adoption, and refresh typography through the vetting of web and system fonts.
The Northwest Territories recognizes 11 official languages. Other than Inuktitut and Western Cree that use Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, Inuvialuktun, Dene, and European languages use Roman Orthography. However, Dene languages require additional diacritical marks (e.g., ogoneks) and phonetic symbols (e.g., glottal stops and barred ls) for correct transcription. These marks and unique symbols are often lacking in various font sets, although are supported through the international Unicode standard that encodes all the world’s languages and scripts. Due to these challenges, various solutions have been sought as noted in the following excerpt from Zoe et al:
Many indigenous peoples have struggled to find Unicode-compliant fonts for use in computer environments in order to represent their languages in accordance with standardized orthographies. For the five Dene languages in the NWT (which include Tłı̨chǫ), the first dedicated font package, called Vowel First Dene, was created in the 1980s by Doug Hitch, a linguist then working for the Language Bureau of the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT). Designed for use in a Macintosh environment, Vowel First Dene became obsolete in the mid-1990s when the GNWT adopted a Windows operating platform, requiring all of their interpreter and translator contractors and educational staff to comply. To fill the gap that this transition created, Jim Stauffer developed a cross-platform font package called WinMac Dene Font. Widely adopted throughout the Dene language communities, the font package allowed Dene words to be shared between Macintosh or Windows computers that had installed WinMac Dene Fonts. However, because most of the characters with diacritical marks were not Unicode compliant, problems arose when Dene words were sent to computers that did not have WinMac Dene Fonts installed. When this happens, the word processing software generates substitutions for the non-compliant characters and, in this way, Tłı̨chǫ becomes Tåîchô. Source: Zoe, J.B., Jerome, S., Andrews, T.D., and Saxon, L. (2012). Letter to the Editor. Arctic 65(3).
Fortunately, support from standard Unicode-compliant font sets has improved remarkably over the years. Currently, Microsoft Office fonts such as Cambria, Calibri, Arial, and Times New Roman offer solid support, with partial support found in other fonts. It has thus become possible to move away from the non-standard WinMac font, a process that is currently underway in the NWT.
|Official Name||Traditional Name||Welcome||Thank You|
|Chipewyan||Dënesųłıné||Márcı ją nuwe ghą núhdël||Mársı|
|Gwich’in||Dinjii Zhu’ Ginjik||Shòh hàh aanàii||Mahsi’|
|North Slavey||Sahtúot’ı̨nę Yatı̨́||Máhsı hejǫ raxts’é ráwǝdǝ||Mahsi’|
|South Slavey||Dene Zhatıe||Máhsı ejǫh nahxe tah anet’ı̨||Máhsı|
|Tłı̨chǫ/Weledeh Dialect||Tłı̨chǫ/Wıı̀ledeh Goèt’ı||Sı̨nà, jǫ naxıghaèhda||Ması̀, Mahsı̀|
In 2015, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre prepared a comprehensive presentation on various issues relating to Indigenous language orthography in the Northwest Territories.