Greetings! I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else
is working with West African languages -- most if not
all of which use expanded character sets -- on the web.
I was recently able to get Hausa text using Unicode on
the Bisharat site <http://www.kabissa.org/bisharat>
(click in the fourth line in Hausa) and have mixed
reports about peoples ability to see the specialized
characters. It was gratifying to learn that one of the
places it worked was in a cyber cafe here in Niamey.
Apparently the newer Windows MSIE and Netscape versions
that have the Lucida Sans Unicode font I used have no
problem; older browsers and MacIntoshes can't read it.
Or so it seems.
This may possibly be a first for Hausa, but the UN
Declaration of Human Rights site
text versions in numerous West African languages using
their standard (i.e., extended character set)
orthography -- Ewe, Kabye, Maninka, Pular/Peul. And
this apparently since 1998 (!). The font in the HTML
is Arial Unicode MS. My MSIE 5.5 with that font,
though, can't "see" many of the letters, though (Lucida
works better for me).
Are there better ways than they or we have gone about
coding the text than this? Unicode fonts that work on
Macs? Can the "font family" coding, which I had mixed
luck with, be used to advantage? Other examples of
West African languages in their full orthographies on
the web? Although Unicode certainly seems to be the
way to go, is it really?
The encouraging thing really is that the these
languages using extended alphabets can be readily
posted on the web and read now on a significant and
increasing number of browsers.
Don Osborn, Ph.D.
Bisharat! A language, technology & development