Handbuch für syrische Type fonds

MELTHO: Syriac OpenType Fonts for Windows XP/2000™ and Windows 95/98/ME™

User Guide

Version 1.20


Documentation by

George A. Kiraz, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2000-2001 by Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute.

All rights are reserved.

Published by Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute

Piscataway, NJ



Meltho: Syriac OpenType Fonts for Windows XP/2000™ and Windows 95/98/ME™ is the outcome of Project Meltho from Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute (formerly The Syriac Computing Institute). The project began in 1996, while I was completing my doctoral studies in Cambridge, England, and went under a number of drastic design changes to catch up with the growing expansion of operating system and font technologies. Although intended originally to be a set of macros and fonts for Microsoft Word – hence, the name Meltho – under Windows 3.2/95, Project Meltho has evolved, and now provides fonts, designed under the new OpenType technology, for the entire Windows operating systems. The new fonts allow the user to write Syriac not only in word processing applications, but also in programs for creating web pages, databases, emails, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and beyond.

The Meltho fonts support the three Syriac type styles (i.e., scripts): Estrangelo, Serto and East Syriac. Each font was named after a historic city from the Syriac tradition.

The success of this project would not have been possible without Paul Nelson of Microsoft Corporation. Had it not been for his interest in the Syriac language, the outcome of this project may have remained a mere set of macros and fonts for Microsoft Word. Paul, with the much-appreciated support of his managers at Microsoft, programmed Syriac in the Unicode Script Processor (also called Uniscribe), the software that handles the shaping of “complex scripts” under the Windows operating system. He also contributed immensely to the architecture of the fonts. Sargon Hasso was our companion on this project since 1998 when we worked on adding Syriac to Unicode. Sargon’s continuous contributions, especially on matters East Syriac, have shaped these fonts.

While we entirely on voluntary basis, we decided to have a professional typographer perfect the designs of the fonts. This proved to be quite costly – especially for a commercially non-viable language like Syriac, but was made possible by generous financial contributions from many institutions and individuals. They all deserve appreciation from each and every user. A list of all contributors appears on the Meltho we page.

Designing these fonts during late evening hours, weekends, and while traveling on airplanes consumed a lot of time that does not belong to me, but which I owe to my wife Christine, and newly born daughter Tabetha Gabriela. Not only was my wife most understanding, but also – feeling pity for me – decided to help me. Christine created and edited most of the fonts’ OpenType tables (GPOS and GSUB), the tables that determine the contextual shapes of characters, and the positioning of vowels and diacritic marks on each character, probably the most arduous, time-consuming and tedious stage of the font design process. Indeed, a husband cannot ask for more!

Piscataway, N.J.

Feast of Mor Gewargi

April 23, 2001

    George Anton Kiraz


The current fonts were created with the much-appreciated efforts of many individuals.

Architecture and Design

Much work had to be done before creating the Meltho fonts, including a proposal to add Syriac to Unicode, and implementing the architecture of the fonts.

•    Unicode is an international encoding scheme that defines for each letter in every language a specific code. The Syriac Unicode proposal, which the current fonts adhere to, is the voluntary work of Paul Nelson, George Kiraz and Sargon Hasso. The proposal was accepted by The Unicode Consortium (Version 3.0) and the International Standard Organization.

•    TrueType fonts are scalable fonts used in many operating systems including Windows 2000. In order to ensure uniformity in the design of all the Syriac fonts, TrueType font templates were created to serve as a model. The templates dictate the set of glyphs required, and the organizational aspects of the font. Three templates were created: one for Estrangelo, another for Serto, and a third for East Syriac. These font templates can be used by font designers to create new Syriac fonts that conform to standards. The templates are the voluntary work of Paul Nelson and George Kiraz.

•    OpenType fonts are TrueType fonts with additional tables that determine the contextual shapes of letters and ligatures, the positioning of marks (e.g., vowels) on each letter, and the spacing between letters. Again, to ensure uniformity in the font design, OpenType template tables were created to serve as a model. These tables can be used by font designers to create new Syriac fonts that conform to standards. The template tables are the voluntary work of George Kiraz and Paul Nelson.

Font Design

The process of font design is divided into various stages:

•    Artwork. The artwork behind a font is basically a drawing of each letter, mark, symbol, and punctuation that appears in that particular font. The artwork can be provided by an artist or a scribe. In most cases, the artwork is based on printed (metal) types or manuscripts.

•    TrueType Font Outlines. The creation of TrueType fonts begins by copying each glyph from the artwork into a font and designing an outline for that glyph. The outline defines the shape of the glyph in scalable terms (i.e., not at a specific point size). The spacing characteristics of each glyph are also defined at this stage. The result of this process is a TrueType font.

•    OpenType Fonts. Tables are added to a TrueType font to define the various shapes of letters (initial, medial, final, or stand-alone), the set of ligatures and the contexts in which they occur, the positioning of each mark (e.g., vowels and dots) with respect to each base-letter, and spacing between glyphs. The result of this process is an OpenType font that is ready for distribution.

Meltho: Syriac OpenType Fonts for Windows XP/2000™ and Windows 95/98/ME™

1 Introduction

1.1 Availability and Usage

The Syriac Computing Center (SyrCOM) of Beth Mardutho provides Meltho: Syriac OpenType Fonts for Windows XP/2000 (for short Meltho) free of charge. You may use Meltho to compose and publish all sorts of documents, hard copy and electronic. You may not sell or distribute Meltho fonts.

Users who use Meltho fonts to publish books and periodicals, be it in hard copy form or electronic, are kindly requested to acknowledge using SyrCOM’s fonts. Such publications may use a statement similar to “The Syriac text is set using the Meltho fonts from Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute [www.BethMardutho.org].” In periodicals, the statement may appear on the page on which the periodical’s organizational information is mentioned; in books, it may appear on the copyright page and/or in the preface.

While Meltho fonts are available for your use free of charge, producing them professionally proved to be quite costly. Your financial contribution is essential to maintain the current fonts (e.g., updates), and to develop new fonts and tools that will become available freely on the Internet. SyrCOM appreciates any contribution in this regard; all contributors will be acknowledged. Please see the Donation Form at the end of this document.

1.2 SyrCOM Discussion Group and Technical Support

Users are encouraged to join the Syriac Computing Discussion Group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/syrcom to discuss problems, learn from others, and share their experience with the user community. Please note that Beth Mardutho does not have the means to provide technical support. We rely on people from within the user community to help each other.

1.3 Installation

There is a separate text document with the distribution explaining the installation procedure.

1.4 Usage under Windows XP/2000™ and Windows 95/98/ME™

In order to use the Syriac fonts, you must first install at least one of the following programs that support Syriac:

•    Office XP

•    Windows XP

Under Windows 2000/XP you will be able to create, edit, and view documents: texts, web pages, emails, databases, power point presentations, graphics, etc.

Under Windows 95/98/ME you will be able to only view Syriac documents created by others. You will not be able to create documents of your own easily. This is because these platforms still use the old code-page system, rather than Unicode. However, there is a crude way by which you can enter texts under Windows 95/98/ME, which is only recommended for small portions of texts (phrases and a few words). See under Typesetting FAQ towards the end of this document.

1.5 Font Version

To determine the version of a specific font, go to Start | Settings | Control Panel | Fonts, then double click on the font in question.

The font version is in the form of x.xx (e.g., 1.23). The units number (1 in this example) signifies a Meltho major release. All fonts within the same release will have the same number.

The first number to the right of the decimal point (2 in this example) signifies a Meltho minor release. All fonts within the same release will have the same number.

The second number to the right of the decimal point (3 in this example) signifies the version of a specific font. Each font has its own version number.

For example, two fonts with versions 1.10 and 1.11 belong to the same Meltho release as a package. The 1.10 did not go through any revision since the 1.10 release, but 1.11 went through a revision after the 1.10 release.

The Font Set

Meltho consists of a suite of Estrangelo, Serto and East Syriac fonts. The following table gives the font names, samples, and a history of each type.

Estrangelo Fonts




Serto (West Syriac) Fonts




East Syriac Fonts


3 Keyboard Layouts

Two Syriac keyboard layouts are provided for:

3.1 Syriac 101 Standard Keyboard

This is the standard keyboard. It is modeled, as close as possible, after the Arabic keyboard. Base characters are located on the normal keys.


Figure 1 Syriac Standard Keyboard

3.2 Syriac Phonetic Keyboard

This is an alternative phonetic keyboard. Base characters are located on the normal keys.


Figure 2 Syriac Phonetic Keyboard

3.3 Marks and Vowels

Marks (vowels and diacritic marks) are located on the Shift and Alt+Ctrl. Note that while the location of base characters is different in the two above keyboard layouts, the location of marks is identical in both keyboard layouts.

On some non-U.S. keyboards, there is an AltGr key on the right side of the keyboard that can be used instead of the Alt+Ctrl combination.

Note. To use the Alt+Ctrl keys, you must first press the Alt key that is on the right side of the keyboard (not the Alt key on the right side of the keyboard), then the Ctrl key on the right side of the keyboard, then the key in question.


Figure 3 Shift Keys


Figure 4 Alt+Ctrl Keys

4 Supported Characters

Meltho fonts contain characters that support the writing of Classical Syriac, Soorith/Swadaya (Eastern Neo-Aramaic, the dialects of the Assyrians and Chaldeans), Turoyo (Central Neo-Aramaic, the dialects of the Syriac Orthodox of Tur Abdin), Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac), and Christian Palestinian Aramaic (also called Palestinian Syriac).

4.1 Base Characters

Base characters are the letters of the alphabet: etc. In addition to the regular Syriac base characters, Meltho fonts include the following letters:


4.2 Punctuation Marks

Meltho fonts include traditional punctuation marks (dotted forms) as well as modern ones. Additionally, the fonts include very early Syriac punctuation marks. The following table lists the punctuation marks next to the word :


4.3 Abbreviation Mark

The abbreviation mark in traditional Syriac, and Modern West Syriac, is a line above the last few letters of a word. For example,


To enter the line, hit the ` (single left quote) key before typing the letters upon which you want to place the line, then start typing; the line will extend until you type a SPACE, ENTER or a punctuation mark. For instance, in the above example, type then ` then then then .

In East Syriac, a punctuation mark follows an abbreviated word, , located on the ‘Shift 7’ key. For example,


4.4 Numerals

The Meltho fonts include both Arabic and Indic numerals.

4.5 Brackets

The Meltho fonts include various brackets to be used in modern texts and in critical editions.

•    [ ] square brackets (on the X and Z keys in the Syriac 101 Keyboard Layout).

•    ( ) brackets (on their usual location on the keyboard).

•    « » double angle brackets (on the ‘_’ and ‘*’ keys).

•     Critical edition brackets (on the ‘Alt+Ctrl =’ and ‘Alt+Ctrl –’ keys).

4.6 Crosses

The Meltho fonts include two crosses, designated as East and West Syriac:

•     West Syriac Cross (on the % key).

•     East Syriac Cross (on the ^ key).

4.7 Control Characters

Control characters can be used to modify the shapes of characters when needed:

•    ZERO WIDTH JOINER character (on the ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’ key). Use it to force a contextual form. Examples:

•    To get an initial form of nun, type nun followed by ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’. You will get .

•    To get a final form of nun, type ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’ followed by nun. You will get .

•    To get an medial form of nun, type ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’ followed by nun followed by another ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’. You will get .

If you want to place a mark (vowel, points) on the character, make sure that you type the marks directly after your type the base character. Hence, the sequence nun, pthoho, ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’ gives the correct rendering:


But the sequence nun, ‘Alt+Ctrl+V’, pthoho, gives the wrong rendering (the pthoho is on the base line):


This character can be used to place square brackets in critical edition to indicate missing portions of texts, without having to break a word. For example:


•    ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER character (on the ‘Alt+Ctrl B’ key): Use to break the connection between letters. For example, type nun then simkath then beth; you will get


Now, move the curser between the simkath and the beth and type ‘Alt+Ctrl B’ to break the joining; you will get


Note. This non-joined simkath appears in some early Syriac manuscripts.

•    Left-to-right marker. Use to force left-to-right direction.

•    Right-to-left marker. Use to force right-to-left direction.

4.8 Diacritic Marks

The Meltho fonts support numerous diacritic marks. It is crucial that the user understands the fine differences between the various marks. For example, each of the following marks is a dot above a character; however, they differ in shape and usage. (In some fonts, the shape of these dots is more distinctive.)


Using the correct diacritic is also crucial when converting between type styles. For example, the diacritic used to indicated the third person feminine verb in West Syriac is a dot next to the taw as in


However, in East Syriac, the diacritic is two dots below the taw as in


Note that the diacritic for feminine taw in East and West Syriac is located on the same key (Shift y): the Meltho fonts know what sort of dots to put depending on the type style: in Serto, the fonts will place a dot to the left of the taw; in East Syriac, the fonts will place two dots below the taw.

The following table describes all the marks:


1. West Syriac ‘Greek’ VOWELS


2. East Syriac ‘Dotted’ VOWELS


3. and


4. Lines


5. Feminine Mark


6. Seyome, Rebwe


7. Single Dots


8. Historical Dots


9. Miscellaneous Sings


10. Liturgical Symbols


11. East Syriac Alaph


12. Garshuni (all keys with Alt+Ctrl)


4.9 Harklean Symbols

These symbols are used in manuscripts of the Harklean version of the Syriac NT: they are , located on Alt+Ctrl 8, Alt+Ctrl 9, and Alt+Ctrl 0.

5Typesetting FAQ

This section describes how to convert Syriac texts entered in various programs.

5.1 When I type Syriac, the letters are disconnected.

You do not have the appropriate Unicode Script Processor. Make sure that you install a Microsoft product that supports Syriac, e.g. Office XP or Windows XP.

5.2 How do I break a ligature?

Ligatures are defined in two ways: obligatory and optional. It is up to the application (the program that you are using) to ask the user whether optional ligatures should be used or not. In any case, both obligatory and optional ligatures can be broken using the ZERO WIDTH JOINER character (on the ‘+Ctrl+V’ key). For example, typing Lomadh and Olaph in Serto, results in the obligatory ligature


However, typing Lomadh, then Alt+Ctrl+V, then Olaph breaks the ligature, resulting in


When there is no connection between the two letters forming the ligature, then one needs to use the ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER character (on the ‘Alt+Ctrl+B’ key). For example, typing Lomadh, then SPACE, then Olaph results in the optional ligature


However, typing Lomadh, then SPACE, then Alt+Ctrl+B, then Olaph breaks the ligature, resulting in


5.3 How do I enter texts under Windows 95/98/ME?

There is a crude way for entering texts under these platforms; it is recommended only if you are entry small portions of texts. For large texts, it is advisable to obtain Windows 2000/XP.

You can enter texts in an HTML document using the Unicode Hex values for characters. For instances, the hex value for Alaph/Olaph is 0710 and you enter it in HTML as “ܐ” (the semicolon is part of the code). You can then cut and paste this text from your web browser to a Word document. The following example gives the text of .



<title>Hello World in Syriac</title>



<p><font face=”Estrangelo Talada”>







6 Converting Texts

This section answers some of the common typesetting questions.

6.1 From Multi-Lingual Scholar (MLS) 3.2

You can convert Syriac texts from MLS 3.2 using the CTIU utility that comes with CTIU. You need to copy the following files that are available on the SyrCOM site to the directory where CTIU resides:

•    syr-uni.tbl: This is the table that converts Syriac texts written in MLS to Unicode.

•    asciiuni: This is the table that converts an text written in Latin characters that is mixed with the Syriac text.

•    ctiufix: This is a program that you need to run after your run CTIU on each file that you convert. It adds the Unicode header to the file that CTIU generated and fixes some other problems.

•    ctiu.dat: This file has some settings for Syriac conversion and will replace your own copy of CTIU.

To convert a file:

1.    Run CTIU from DOS by typing ctiu.

2.    Enter the name of the file you want to convert in the “Input File” field (e.g. myfile.mls) then hit Enter. The program should say “Export from MLS”.

3.    Enter the name of a temporary file in the “Output File” field (e.g. output.tmp) then hit Enter.

4.    Select the option “Syriac Unicode” by moving the cursor to it and hitting Enter.

5.    After CTIU is done, you should be at the DOS prompt.

6.    Now you need to do some fixing to the output.tmp file that was generated by CTIU. Type ctiufix output.tmp myfile.txt (where myfile.txt is the file name of the final result).

Now, you should be able to load the file in Notepad or Word. In both cases, if you see the Syriac text represented by boxes, highlight it and chose a Syriac font.


Published: November 26, 2014, 13:48 | Comments Off on Handbuch für syrische Type fonds
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