This document describes and prioritises gaps for the support of languages using the Ethiopic script on the Web and in eBooks. In particular, it is concerned with text layout. It checks that needed features are supported in W3C specifications, in particular HTML and CSS and those relating to digital publications. It also checks whether the features have been implemented in browsers and ereaders. This is a preliminary analysis.
This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at https://www.w3.org/TR/.
This document describes and prioritises gaps for the support of languages using the Ethiopic script on the Web and in eBooks. In particular, it is concerned with text layout. It checks that needed features are supported in W3C specifications, in particular HTML and CSS and those relating to digital publications. It also checks whether the features have been implemented in browsers and ereaders. This document complements the document Ethiopic Layout Requirements, which describes the requirements for areas where gaps appear. It is linked to from the language matrix that tracks Web support for many languages.
The editor's draft of this document is being developed by the Ethiopic Layout Task Force, part of the W3C Internationalization Interest Group. It is published by the Internationalization Working Group. The end target for this document is a Working Group Note.
Group Draft Notes are not endorsed by W3C nor its Members.
This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.
The W3C Patent Policy does not carry any licensing requirements or commitments on this document.
This document is governed by the 12 June 2023 W3C Process Document.
The W3C needs to make sure that the needs of scripts and languages around the world are built in to technologies such as HTML, CSS, SVG, etc. so that Web pages and eBooks can look and behave as people expect around the world.
This page documents difficulties people encounter when trying to use the Amharic and Tigriña languages in the Ethiopic script on the Web.
Having identified an issue, it investigates the current status with regards to web specifications and implementations by user agents (browsers, e-readers, etc.), and attempts to prioritise the severity of the issue for web users.
A summary of this report and others can be found as part of the language matrix.
For a description of the Ethiopic script and its use for the Amharic language see the (non-W3C) page Ethiopic/Amharic,which summarises aspects of the orthography and typographic features, including relevant Unicode characters and their use.
This version of the document is a preliminary analysis
Gap analysis work usually starts with a preliminary analysis, conducted quickly by one or a small group of experts. Then a more detailed analysis is carried out, involving a wider range of experts. The detailed analysis may involve the development of tests, in order to illustrate issues and track results for browsers. The next phase is ongoing maintenance. It is expected that the resulting document will not be frozen: as gaps are fixed, this should be noted in the document. It is also possible that new gaps are noticed or arise, and they can be added to this document when that happens.
As the gap analysis develops, the requirements for features that are problematic should be described in the companion document, Ethiopic Layout Requirements. Links to the appropriate part of that document should be added to this document as the material is created. Note that the requirements document should not contain any technology-specific information: all of that belongs here.
This document not only describes gaps, it also attempts to prioritise them in terms of the impact on the local user. The prioritisation is indicated by colour.
It is important to note that these colours do not indicate to what extent a particular features is broken. They indicate the impact of a broken or missing feature on the content author or end user.
Basic styling is the level that would be generally accepted as sufficient for most Web pages. Advanced level support would include additional features one might expect to include in ebooks or other advanced typographic formats. There may be features of a script or language that are not supported on the Web, but that are not generally regarded as necessary (usually archaic or obscure features). In this case, the feature can be described here, but the status should be marked as OK.
The decision as to what priority level is assigned to a described gap is down to the experts doing the gap analysis. It may not always be straightforward to decide. If a given section in this document refers to more than one feature that is broken, each with different impacts on Web users, the priority for the section should be the lowest denominator.
A cell can be scored as OK if the feature in question is specified in an appropriate specification, and is supported by user agents. A specification that is in CR or later and has two implementations in 'major' browsers will count. This means that the feature may not be supported in all browsers yet. (At some point in the future we may try to distinguish, visually, whether support is available in a specification but still pending in major browsers or applications.)
See also General page layout & progression for features such as column layout, page turning direction, etc. that are affected by text direction.
Are the script requirements for vertically oriented text met? What about if you mix vertical text with scripts that are normally only horizontal? Do you need a switch to use different characters in vertical vs. horizontal text? Does the browser support short runs of horizontal text in vertical lines (tate-chu-yoko in Japanese) as expected? Is the orientation of characters and the directional ordering of characters supported as needed? See available information or check for currently needed data.
If this script runs right-to-left, are there any issues when handling that? Is bidirectional text adequately supported? What about numbers and expressions? Do the Unicode bidi controls and HTML markup provide the support needed? Is isolation of directional runs problematic? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Are there any character repertoire issues preventing use of this script on the Web? Do variation selectors need attention? Are there any other encoding-related issues? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Do the standard fallback fonts used in browsers (eg. serif, sans-serif, cursive, etc.) match expectations? Are special font or OpenType features needed for this script that are not available? See available information or check for currently needed data.
This covers ways of modifying the glyphs, such as for italicisation, bolding, oblique, etc. Do italic fonts lean in the right direction? Is synthesised italicisation problematic? Are there other problems relating to bolding or italicisation - perhaps relating to generalised assumptions of applicability? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Does the script in question require additional user control features to support alterations to the position or shape of glyphs, for example adjusting the distance between the base text and diacritics, or changing the glyphs used in a systematic way? Do you need to be able to compose/decompose conjuncts, or show characters that are otherwise hidden, etc? See available information or check for currently needed data.
If this script is cursive (eg. Arabic, N’Ko, Syriac, etc), are there problems or needed features related to the handling of cursive text? Do cursive links break if parts of a word are marked up or styled? Do Unicode joiner and non-joiner characters behave as expected? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Does the browser support requirements for baseline alignment between mixed scripts and in general? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Does your script need special text transforms that are not supported? Does your script convert letters to uppercase, capitalised and lowercase alternatives according to your typographic needs? Do you need to to convert between half-width and full-width presentation forms? See available information or check for currently needed data.
This is about how text is divided into graphemes, words, sentences, etc., and behaviour associated with that. Do Unicode grapheme clusters appropriately segment character units for your script? When you double- or triple-click on the text, is the expected range of characters highlighted? When you move through the text with the cursor, or backspace, etc. do you see the expected behaviour? (Some of the answers to these questions may be picker up in other sections, such as line-breaking, or initial-letter styling.) See available information or check for currently needed data.
Are there specific problems related to punctuation or the interaction of the text with punctuation (for example separation of punctuation from previous text, but allowing no line break between)? Are there issues related to handling of abbreviation, ellipsis, or iteration? Are there problems related to bracketing information or demarcating things such as proper nouns, etc? See available information or check for currently needed data.
This is about ways of marking text (see also specific sections dedicated to quotations and inline notes/annotations). Is it possible to express emphasis or highlight content as expected? Bold, italic and under-/over-lines are not always appropriate, and some scripts have their own unique ways of doing things, that are not in the Western tradition at all. Text delimiters mark certain items or sections off from the main text, such as book names in Chinese, quotations, head markers in Tibetan, etc, and often involve the use of punctuation. Is there any behaviour that isn't well supported, such as overlines for numeric digits in Syriac? Are there issues about the positioning or use of underlines? Some aspects related to the drawing of lines alongside or through text involve local typographic considerations. Do underlines need to be broken in special ways for this script? Do you need support for additional line shapes or widths? Does the distance or position of the lines relative to the text need to vary in ways that are not achievable? Are lines correctly drawn relative to vertical text? See available information or check for currently needed data.
When highlighting or emphasising a word followed by an ethiopic wordspace, the punctuation should also receive the highlight. This includes underlines, for which there is currently an issue.
This issue is applicable to languages using the Ethiopic script, but the principle probably also applies to a number of archaic scripts.
We are currently investigating whether there is really an issue here.
When underlining a word followed by an ethiopic wordspace, the punctuation should also receive the underline. (See the relevant section in the Ethiopic Layout Requirements doc.)
The CSS Text Decoration spec, Level 4 currently says that text-decoration-skip:spaces would not underline Ethiopic word spaces. This seems like a basic issue.
A test is available for this, but text-decoration-skip:spaces doesn't appear to be supported yet by browsers. The issue may arise when implementations begin to provide support for that value.
Underlines in Ethiopic text need to be thicker than in English text. Some control is needed over the thickness of the underline. This may be an advanced issue.
Are there any issues when dealing with quotations marks, especially when nested? Should block quotes be indented or handled specially? See available information or check for currently needed data.
The ruby spec currently specifies an initial subset of requirements for fine-tuning the typography of phonetic and semantic annotations of East Asian text, including furigana, pinyin and zhuyin fuhao systems. Is is adequate for what it sets out to do? What other controls will be needed in the future? What about other types of inline annotation, such as warichu? (For referent-type notes such as footnotes, see below.) See available information or check for currently needed data.
If the script has its own set of number digits, are there any issues in how they are used? Does the script or language use special format patterns that are problematic (eg. 12,34,000 in India)? What about date/time formats and selection - and are non-Gregorian calendars needed? Do percent signs and other symbols associated with number work correctly, and do numbers need special decorations, (like in Ethiopic or Syriac)? How about the management of personal names, addresses, etc. in web pages: are there issues? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Digits have lines above and below. Modern practice tends to use discreet lines associated with each characters, however older texts used a single line across the whole set of adjacent digits. See examples in the layout requirements document. This difference is likely due to technology constraints. Presumably, a continuous line could be applied using OpenType functionality, but there may be a question about whether a control should allow to switch between one style and the other.
Try the test page.
Initial results indicate that a single line is produced by Noto Sans Ethiopic and Noto Serif Ethiopic, but not by Kefa or Abyssinica SIL fonts.
There is a question as to whether this should be managed by font choice, or whether a switch should be available to users, eg. in CSS, that allows the desired approach to be applied.
In addition to the question just mentioned, a decision needs to be agreed regarding the impact of this feature for the user. For now, this is marked as basic.
Does the browser capture the rules about the way text in your script wraps when it hits the end of a line? Does line-breaking wrap whole 'words' at a time, or characters, or something else (such as syllables in Tibetan and Javanese)? What characters should not appear at the end or start of a line, and what should be done to prevent that? See available information or check for currently needed data.
Is hyphenation used for your script, or something else? If hyphenation is used, does it work as expected? (Note, this is about line-end hyphenation when text is wrapped, rather than use of the hyphen and related characters as punctuation marks.) See available information or check for currently needed data.
When text in a paragraph needs to have flush lines down both sides, does it follow the rules for your script? Does the script need assistance to conform to a grid pattern? Does your script allow punctuation to hang outside the text box at the start or end of a line? Where adjustments are need to make a line flush, how is that done? Do you shrink/stretch space between words and/or letters? Are word baselines stretched, as in Arabic? What about paragraph indents, or the need for logical alignment keywords, such as start/end, rather than left/right? See available information or check for currently needed data.
There need to be some rules about how to position the ink within the wordspace character (with the word, or centred), and a control to allow the preferred style of positioning. I'm classifying that as an advanced control. See the requirements.
When text uses ethiopic wordspace the wordspace should expand to assist in justification. Need some tests to check whether than happens. This is a basic issue, so if tests fail, we need to change the status of this section.
Some scripts create emphasis or other effects by spacing out the words, letters or syllables in a word. Are there requirements for this script/language that are unsupported? (For justification related spacing, see below.) See available information or check for currently needed data.
The CSS Counter Styles specification describes a limited set of simple and complex styles for counters to be used in list numbering, chapter heading numbering, etc.The rules plus more counter styles (totalling around 120 for over 30 scripts) are listed in the document Ready-made Counter Styles. Do these cover your needs? Are the details correct? Are there other aspects related to counters and lists that need to be addressed? See available information or check for currently needed data.
There is a question (which is probably an advanced issue) about whether counters should align to the left or right.
Customisable counters are needed for many languages.
There is no way for users to create local counter styles that are not built in to the browser, and users also often want to tweak the counter style in some way (esp. the prefix/suffix).
Ethiopic script text uses local counter styles. While some of these are supported by some browsers, the set of symbols used and their order varies by language, and not all are supported.this GitHub issue, which is being used to track this gap. Please add any discussion there, and not to this issue.
Does the browser or ereader correctly handle special styling of the initial letter of a line or paragraph, such as for drop caps or similar? How about the size relationship between the large letter and the lines alongide? where does the large letter anchor relative to the lines alongside? is it normal to include initial quote marks in the large letter? is the large letter really a syllable? etc. Are all of these things working as expected? See available information or check for currently needed data.
How are the main text area and ancilliary areas positioned and defined? Are there any special requirements here, such as dimensions in characters for the Japanese kihon hanmen? The book cover for scripts that are read right-to-left scripts is on the right of the spine, rather than the left. Is that provided for? When content can flow vertically and to the left or right, how do you specify the location of objects, text, etc. relative to the flow? For example, keywords 'left' and 'right' are likely to need to be reversed for pages written in English and page written in Arabic. Do tables and grid layouts work as expected? How do columns work in vertical text? Can you mix block of vertical and horizontal text correctly? Does text scroll in the expected direction? Other topics that belong here include any local requirements for things such as printer marks, tables of contents and indexes. See available information or check for currently needed data.
Does your script have special requirements for footnotes, endnotes or other necessary annotations of this kind in the way needed for your culture? (There is a section above for purely inline annotations, such as ruby or warichu. This section is more about annotation systems that separate the reference marks and the content of the notes.) See available information or check for currently needed data.
Are vertical form controls well supported? In right-to-left scripts, is it possible to set the base direction for a form field? Is the scroll bar on the correct side? etc. See available information or check for currently needed data.
Sometimes a script or language does things that are not common outside of its sphere of influence. This is a loose bag of additional items that weren't previously mentioned. This section may also be relevant for observations related to locale formats (such as number, date, currency, format support).
There are many other CSS modules which may need review for script-specific requirements, not to mention the SVG, HTML, Speech, MathML and other specifications. What else is likely to cause problems for worldwide deployment of the Web, and what requirements need to be addressed to make the Web function well locally?