Bible Index

Using Unicode with Myanmar

(Myanmar version မြန်မာလို - PDF)

This page documents the technical reasons for using Myanmar Unicode on this site. A basic knowledge of computer terms is assumed.

History of Myanmar Fonts

Traditionally Myanmar Fonts have been pretending to be English (technically Latin 1 or Windows Code Page 1252) fonts. This means that they are using the numbers allocated for the Latin alphabet to represent Myanmar characters. Several alternative font families have emerged, each with a different mapping between English and Myanmar characters. None of these mappings has ever been officially standardised, so there is no "Code Page" that can be specified in a web page, as is possible for many other languages. In addition, many variants of the same linguistic character are required and each uses a different number (code point). It is often legitimate to use several different variants when typing the same word. Although one of these is stylistically preferable in any given situation, many computer users use the sub-optimal forms, because it is quicker to type.

This causes a number of difficulties:

Advantages of Unicode

Unicode was created to solve these problems for all the world's languages. Until very recently there was no implementation for Myanmar language. However, this is now changing. There are now Unicode fonts available which fully implement the Unicode 4 specification. had decided to adopt Unicode because of the following advantages:

The only disadvantage of using Unicode with Myanmar is the lack of application support. However, this is likely to change in the next few years as Myanmar Open Type fonts become available and more Open Source applications support Graphite fonts.

Choice of Unicode font

There are currently very few fonts which are fully compliant to Unicode 4. Unicode 4 is ambiguous in relation to storing the Kinzi character and for this Unicode Technical Note 11 (UTN11) was written. However, several alternatives to UTN11 have also been implemented. There is now a proposal in the pipeline to resolve these issues and so the Myanmar bibles on this website now conform to this proposal. However, it has not yet been officially accepted into the standard by the Unicode Consortium and may be subject to change. If and when the proposed changes are made to the Unicode Standard then will make any changes required to conform to this.

Padauk font has been chosen because it is:

Unfortunately, at the moment this may require a special browser to be downloaded. There is a full version of the increasingly popular Firefox web browser and this gives the best rendering for users of the Myanmar language. It works on Linux and Windows XP, 2000, 98 and ME. Translations into the Myanmar langauge are in progress. Graphite enabled versions of Open Office, the Open source alternative to Microsoft office, are now available, with support for Myanmar language.

Microsoft Windows uses OpenType fonts with its Uniscribe technology. There is currently no Myanmar specific support in Uniscribe. However, with the latest version of Uniscribe, which came with Windows XP SP2, it is possible to do complex ligature substitutions as required by Myanmar. OpenType tables are currently being added to Padauk to enable it to be rendered by Uniscribe as well as Graphite. However, it is possible that the OpenType rules may no longer work if Microsoft adds Myanmar language specific support to Uniscribe in the future.

You should be able to use an alternative font, provided it implements the proposed changes to Unicode. For example, the Myanmar2 font from Myanmar NLP Lab should work with the Myanmar text on this site. Unfortunately, if you have a pseudo-Unicode Myanmar font installed, or one of the various attempts to implement Myanmar Unicode 4, then it may be found by your browser instead, in which case the pages may display wrongly. If you are aware of an alternative Unicode font which works with this site then please email us and we will add it to the font list in the stylesheet.

Karen, Mon & Shan

Support for Sgaw Karen and Mon is in the Unicode pipeline. Proposals for other dialects of Karen and Shan have not yet been accepted by the International Unicode Consortium. Hopefully, this will not take too long. Once the proposals are accepted, Karen, Mon and Shan bibles will be made available online.

Akha and Lahu

These scripts use various tone marks most of which [ˆ ˇ ˉ ˬ ˍ] are already represented well in Unicode with normal and low forms of macrons, carons and carets (U+02C6, U+02C7, U+02C9, U+02EC, U+02CD). You will notice that the low checked tone mark in the Lahu bible [˰] does not look as clear as the others. This is because there is no low equivalent of [ˆ] Modifier Letter Circumflex Accent in Unicode, so the closest approximation to it, Modifier Letter Low up arrowhead (U+02F0), has been used instead. However, it is hoped that a more suitable character will be added in future as has been proposed by SIL.


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