Indigenous Languages and Education Secretariat

Orthography

Except for Inuktitut*, all official NWT languages use Roman Orthography, and can be transcribed relatively easily with standard fonts and keyboards.

Dene text often requires diacritical marks (i.e., “accents”) and phonetic symbols (i.e., glottal stop, barred l) that are often lacking in various font sets and keyboards.  In the past, specialized fonts, commonly known as Vowel First Dene or Winmac fonts were developed to provisionally address these unique orthographic characteristics.

While meeting the needs of transcribers, the fonts were incompatible with regular fonts and gave rise to major transcription problems. Fortunately, with the advent of the international Unicode character standard, Windows and Mac system fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, and Cambria can be used for Dene transcription. Other fonts, however, offer varying levels of support for unique Dene character forms, given their often limited character sets and underdeveloped placement of diacritical marks.

As such, installation of older legacy fonts and their associated keyboards is no longer necessary or advisable.

To facilitate adoption of the newer standards, staff at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre have developed several tools and guides to facilitate Indigenous language word processing.

These helpful tools are available from: www.pwnhc.ca/orthography-tools/

As data entry systems evolve, new tools may be developed to meet the needs of end users.