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ATypI 08 St Petersburg

Session details

Grammar of proto-typographic Arabic Naskh

Thomas Milo

TypeTech TT08 | Palace A
Thursday 18 September | 11:00 – 11:50

Theme TypeTech by ATypI | Duration: 50 minutes

This study is based on the observation that the many instances of pre-typographic, manuscript Naskh writing, share a single ideal. An analysis on the basis of the linguistic concepts of competence and performance leads to fascinating results. From manuscript evidence, and early Middle Eastern type designs, a script grammar (un système grammatical) can be inferred. The result is a descriptive grammar of naskh script, based on Ottoman practice over a period of three centuries. By analogy with linguistics, such a grammar can serve both as a theoretical model and as a yardstick for understanding and systematic description of variations in performance. Religious texts from within the Ottoman calligraphic domain were selected as authoritative samples, for these are without exception meticulously executed and became the prototype for the emerging Middle Eastern typography. The norm of Naskh competence is well documented in the form of the heritage of Ottoman Qurʾāns, that also show rich variation in execution. Non-religious texts tend to be written more casually, but are clearly performances based on the same model that contribute significantly to the examined corpus. A computer model of Naskh script grammar was created, that enabled the author to present exhaustive lookup tables with a grammatical solution for all web-attested Arabic letter blocks. This study targets arabists, orientalists in general, linguists as well as the students and designers of Arabic typefaces. In addition to that, every effort has been made to make this study informative for the interested layman.

Speaker details

Thomas Milo

President DecoType | The Netherlands

Tom Milo is the founder of DecoType, who were the first in the industry to introduce the concept of intelligent fonts (Ruq’ah 1986) and to develop Arabic script solutions based on thorough research into the Islamic calligraphic tradition. Decotype contributes fonts and Arabic Calligraphy applications to Microsoft Office Arabic Edition and to Adobe PageMaker Middle East, and provides a special interface for Calligraphic typesetting; they provide Arabic fonts for MacOS 9 and MacOSX and WinSoft-Adobe InDesign ME. DecoType works closely together in research and development with Tradigital (UK, Germany, Egypt).

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