The Greek question mark

Typography inevitably introduces you to interesting subjects you will never have time to properly learn.

One for me: Greek typeface design. I have been bookmarking articles on it for years, with the good intent of going back to them.

With the Greek alphabet (or at least, a very small portion of it), regularly in the news and our lives at the moment, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try and extend my own knowledge of Greek beyond a few letters.

This meant returning to the writing of Greek type design expert and educator Gerry Leonidas:

Greek combines aspects of a dominant literary language, a widespread second language of exchange and trade, a revered language of sacred or banned texts, a language in exile and under occupation, an instrument of nation-building and political identity, and a vehicle for the ideas of modernity and traditionalism. This nuanced trajectory is reflected in the written and typographic forms of the language, which demands respect by typographers and typeface designers.

The first section of the article is a useful overview for anyone new, like me, looking to learn more about the Greek script and its history.

In the second section, he moves onto the practical type design details. It’s clear how many Latin-centric typographers and type designers Leonidas has taught, when he writes:

Greek punctuation shares several glyphs with the Latin; exceptions are the Greek question mark, which is identical to the Latin semi-colon (;), and the Greek semi-colon, which takes the form of a period at the x-height.

And I though, “Oh! I know this. A middle dot,” before he could continue:

This is called “ano teleia” and should not be confused with the mid-dot, an error many non-Greek designers make.

I’m enjoying the chance to undo these small script-specific assumptions, that collectively mean something bigger.

Until next time,