bugFree UCS Outline Fonts - Bugs: bug #46144, Alternate shape of ĸra and kappa


bug #46144: Alternate shape of ĸra and kappa

Submitted by:  Hsing-yen He <hammerandsickle>
Submitted on:  Wed 07 Oct 2015 11:45:57 AM UTC  
Category:  individual character(s) Severity:  3 - Normal
Item Group:  glyph(s) ugly Status:  Proceeding
Privacy:  Public Assigned to:  Steve White <Stevan_White>
Open/Closed:  Open Release:  development

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Mon 10 Apr 2017 02:55:20 PM UTC, comment #4:

The italic lowercase kappa should look like a slanted lowercase kappa, not a slanted lowercase Cyrillic ka.

There are two possible glyphs for kappa, cursive and non-cursive, which FreeSerif calls “kappasymbol” and “kappa” respectively. U+03F0 GREEK KAPPA SYMBOL always uses the cursive glyph. U+03BA GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA may use either glyph, although in a mathematical context it must use the non-cursive glyph. In a Greek-language context, the glyph doesn’t matter: it is purely a matter of style.

Two styles of slanted Greek lowercase are Lipsias, traditionally used in Germany, and Porson, traditionally used in England. They have a plethora of differences but the important one here is that Lipsias uses a cursive kappa and Porson a non-cursive kappa. FreeSerif uses Lipsias, except for a few letters like kappa for which Unicode encodes a normal letter and a mathematical symbol. In those cases, FreeSerif uses the Porson glyph for the normal letter and the Lipsias glyph for the symbol.

The exception is that FreeSerif’s italic kappa uses a Cyrillic ka glyph, which is unattested and inconsistent with the rest of the font family. It should instead use the Porson glyph. https://books.google.com/books?id=BGdCAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA394 has many examples of Porson slanted lowercase kappa. For a higher-resolution example, see Hsing-yen’s attached image.

The characters whose glyphs need changing are: in FreeSerif, U+1D705 MATHEMATICAL ITALIC SMALL KAPPA and U+1D73F MATHEMATICAL BOLD ITALIC SMALL KAPPA; in FreeSerif Italic, U+03BA GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA; and in FreeSerif Bold Italic, U+03BA GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA.

David Corbett <dscorbett>
Fri 07 Apr 2017 08:34:49 AM UTC, comment #3:

OK I'm convinced. Some changes in SVN. Really the design of the letter was a uncertain anyway. There is more discussion at

I would like to alter the Sans letter as well, to make its ascender slightly taller than the x, but for technical reasons I'm postponing that.

Thanks, guys!

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Thu 06 Apr 2017 07:42:08 PM UTC, comment #2:

Kra (not “ĸra”, which is a hypercorrection) should look like a ⟨k⟩ without an ascender. In this comment, I will provide evidence, then explain what changes need to be made to FreeFont. I’ll discuss kappa in another comment.

There are four glyphs relevant to this discussion.

  • small caps ⟨K⟩
  • ⟨k⟩ without an ascender
  • Greek small kappa
  • Cyrillic small ka


Transcription: http://fiftywordsforsnow.com/ebooks/kleinschmidt/
Samuel Kleinschmidt created an orthography for Greenlandic, described in this 1851 book, using kappa to represent /q/. This is the origin of the letter kra. The table in the middle of the page has many contrasting examples of kra and ⟨k⟩ in italics. The diagonal strokes of the kras look different from the ⟨k⟩s’, which is evidence that he simply used a kappa sort, rather than creating a new sort.

Transcription: http://fiftywordsforsnow.com/ebooks/bourquin/
This book is from 1891. Item 21, at the bottom left, includes the words “seĸineĸ”, “seĸerngă”, and “seĸininga” in three fonts. Compare these kras with the three ⟨k⟩s of item 23, paying especial attention to the vertical strokes’ top serifs. In the first two fonts, kra looks like a ⟨k⟩ without an ascender. In the third font, it looks like a small caps ⟨K⟩. This is evidence that kra had diverged from the Greek kappa, much like how U+A7B5 LATIN SMALL LETTER BETA is a Latin form of a Greek letter.

This is a 1973 Greenlandic/Danish bilingual newspaper. There are kras and ⟨k⟩s throughout. In the serif font used for articles, the serifs at the top of the vertical stroke of the kra show that they used a small caps ⟨K⟩. In the sans-serif font used for headlines, the kra is slightly taller than x-height, indicating that they didn’t have a kra sort and made do with a small caps ⟨K⟩.

Search for “kra” on this page to find three photographs of old signs containing sans-serif kras.


A variety of glyphs have been used for kra. Most of them are glyphs for other characters repurposed for kra. The only glyph specifically designed for kra is the ⟨k⟩ without an ascender. Using kappa is very old-fashioned. Using small caps ⟨K⟩ is a fallback. Nothing uses the glyph with the Cyrillic-ka-style curly upper arm, except FreeFont.


In all the FreeFonts, the kra glyph should be changed to a ⟨k⟩ without an ascender, as in Hsing-yen’s attached image. The only FreeFont whose kra glyph looks right is FreeSerif Italic.

David Corbett <dscorbett>
Fri 23 Oct 2015 07:49:19 PM UTC, comment #1:

Hi Hsing-yen,

I would need some visual evidence that this is a good idea.
Again, an image of printed material (pre-computer) would be adequate.

Steve White <Stevan_White>
Project AdministratorIn charge of this item.
Wed 07 Oct 2015 11:45:57 AM UTC, original submission:

Hi Steve,

Have you ever thought about making full distinct between ĸra, kappa and ka (kako)? What they’re looks like may will made them confused in FreeSerif. I have a propasal to distinct them. First, ĸra can having the same serifs as k in FreeSerif Regular, Second, kappa having a different joining from ka in FreeSerif Italic.


Hsing-yen He <hammerandsickle>


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    Follow 6 latest changes.

    Date Changed by Updated Field Previous Value => Replaced by
    2017-04-07 Stevan_White StatusNeed info => Proceeding
    2015-10-23 Stevan_White CategoryNone => individual character(s)
        Item GroupNone => glyph(s) ugly
        StatusNone => Need info
        Assigned toNone => Stevan_White
    2015-10-07 hammerandsickle Attached File- => Added Propasal_for_kra_and_kappa.png, #35088

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