[KS] formal question (which version of Chinese characters?)

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Mon May 25 20:05:12 EDT 2015

A note on "fonts" (again) -- as this comes up again and again:

Unicode has been on most people's computers since the turn of the 
Richard McBride just mentioned the "Batang" font that most seem to use 
in Korean studies. I just wanted to again point to the basics 
(technical things are not of interest to everyone, it seems, but the 
basics are still essential when discussing such issues):

Most of the fonts on your computer will be Unicode fonts, such as 
Batang (but also such standard fonts as Times or Arial). Basically, 
over the years several decisions were made were to place what letters, 
what characters and symbols. These decisions were made (and later 
revised several times) BEFORE the fonts were created -- or parallel to 
that. So, you will find fonts in various VERSIONS. For example "Batang" 
-- if you just have a brief look here -- is now at version 5.0:

If you have an early version you may miss certain symbols or characters 
that you do find in a later version.

But since this works with code tables, a font is basically build like a 
simple, non-relational database -- or a simple table, if you like that 
        A339   A340   A41   (...)
B2022    사      오    あ
B2023   &      好    佳
B2024    ü       ß    ç

If you have a table like this (a made-up example!), and you tell your 
computer to type 
  B2023 x A41  
then it will produce "佳" -- no matter what specific font you use, as 
long as you use a Unicode font and that font has an entry there. That 
is so because this would be the agreed character at that particular 
place -- and that would NOT be any variation of this character (e.g., 
it would NOT be the simplified version of a Chinese character in one 
font and the traditional character in another font), ONLY in terms of 
visual style (bold, Italic, whatever) would it be different.

I am not sure what a Windows OS does, but if I use Batang in a MS Word 
text on my Mac and -- this happens from time to time, as Richard 
pointed out -- the Batang font does not include that Chinese character, 
then my Mac automatically substitutes that character. That is, it takes 
it from another installed font (for example a specific Japanese font 
that does have it) -- in that case the (visual) style might look 

The  p r a c t i c a l  point of my note is this:  It does make sense 
to look for the latest version of the font you mostly use for Chinese 
characters. And, whatever Unicode font you use, you never "loose" 
anything (e.g. by transferring that text to another computer), as the 
Unicode encoding has it tagged down to the exact character you want 
there. Note that simplified Chinese and Japanese short forms and 
traditional forms are all handled as if they were completely different 
script systems (so they do not get accidentally mixed up later, do not 
get replaced, etc.). 

Less than a year ago CJK fonts were discussed here on the list and 
Charles Muller pointed us to the new "Noto" font. 
http://www.google.com/get/noto/  That seems much better than Batang, 
has more characters. BUT it unfortunately does not work on a Mac. 
However, if you use Windows, I'd certainly suggest installing that.
PS: I just now see it was updated on April 20. Who knows, maybe it now 
works on Macs?



More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list