Writing Systems Technology
SIL’s Language Technology team provides technical support for all aspects of language development, including supporting the world’s writing systems. We want all living languages to have adequate computer support for the way they are written down using scripts and alphabets. Adequate support includes software for keyboarding and data entry, text encoding, linguistic analysis, rendering, and publishing.
In particular, our support for writing systems is focused on foundational technologies that enable language communities and the broad computing and publishing industry to use writing systems and develop specific solutions:
- Keyman and keyboard collections – Keyman is a free and open source keyboard utility for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and the web. Over 1000 free keyboards are available in the Keyman collection. We also work with OS developers to improve core data entry systems on various platforms.
- Fonts and font development tools – We design and develop fonts, and assist others in font development. Our complete collection of fonts includes over thirty font families. Our font tools are available on Github and include Pysilfont and Smith. We maintain the SIL Open Font License – a free and open source licensing model for fonts.
- Graphite and rendering technologies – Graphite is a smart font shaping and rendering system developed specifically to handle the complexities of lesser-known languages of the world. We also participate with others in the development and improvement of the most widespread smart font technology – OpenType.
Most of our current software for writing systems is included in our SIL Language Technology Product List.
We also advocate on behalf of language communities to increase computer support for their writing systems. We gather and publish information on writing systems, and help guide the computer industry on supporting them:
- ScriptSource – ScriptSource is a dynamic, collaborative reference to the writing systems of the world, with detailed information on scripts, characters, languages – and the remaining needs for supporting them in the computing realm. We gather and maintain data about specific writing systems and make them available to the industry through ScriptSource and through other sources such as the SIL Locale Data Repository (SLDR) and the Ethnologue. We warmly welcome submissions to ScriptSource from the wider community.
- Unicode – We participate in the development of The Unicode Standard and assist language communities in making proposals for the inclusion of specific scripts and characters.
- Linguistic and technical information – We do research on the complexities of writing systems and supporting them on computers, and make that information available on sites such as ScriptSource Topics, Font Development Best Practices, and Computers and Writing Systems.
Most of this writing system support is coordinated by a dedicated team of 17 people around the world who research writing system needs and develop technologies – SIL’s Writing Systems Technology team (formerly the SIL Non-Roman Script Initiative). To contact us please use the form on the the Contact page.