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Historical technological impacts on the visual representation of language with reference to South Asian typeforms

Ross, F. ORCID: (2018) Historical technological impacts on the visual representation of language with reference to South Asian typeforms. Philological Encounters, 3 (4). ISSN 2451-9189

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1163/24519197-12340054


The visual representation of language has long been valued as a vital means of communication for the majority of the world’s linguistic communities. The typographic rendition and reproduction of the world’s many writing-systems have indubitably facilitated the dissemination of information, sharing of knowledge and stimulation of cultural interchange. However, the development of typeforms for the numerous scripts of South Asia that represent seemingly innumerous languages has been greatly influenced by the prevailing typefounding and typesetting technologies initially conceived for the Latin script. Consequently, the transition of many Brahmi-derived scripts from chirographic to typographic form, that occurred relatively recently in printing history, has been determined by historical processes that were rarely conducive to accurately rendering non-Latin scripts. This essay provides a critical evaluation of the historical technological impacts on typographic textual composition in South-Asian languages. It draws on archival resources, principally those of the Non-Latin Type Collection (UoR), to consider within a historical context the technological constraints that have been crucial in determining the textural appearance of South-Asian typography. In scrutinizing relevant archives, which map the transition of South-Asian typeforms from foundry to digital type, this essay aims to elucidate design decisions that either purposely or unwittingly shaped subsequent and current typographic practice. It questions the validity of the continued legacy of historical technological impacts for contemporary vernacular communication.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Typography & Graphic Communication
ID Code:66725
Uncontrolled Keywords:South Asia, typography, typefounding, typesetting, Devanagari, Bengali


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