Of Mice and Keyboards

Down for the Count:
Long Vowels in UCAS Legacy Fonts

character assignments for long vowels in Prosyl

Hold on to your hats. Things are about to get chaotic.

In AiPaiNunavik and Naamajut—and sometimes Nunacom—long vowels were precombined. ᐄ and ᐹ and so on are single characters, as in Unicode.

ProSyl and—most of the time—Nunacom used separate dots, printed above the rest of the letter. Even AiPaiNunavik had a raised-dot character, and Naamajut had two. But it was just to keep these fonts from feeling left out. The dots don’t seem to have been used for anything, except maybe as an emergency backup. In all fonts, the dots are “non-advance” characters that print on top of the following letter, as on a typewriter. Or, at least, that was the theory. The practice sometimes fell short.

Connecting the Dots:
Long Vowels in Prosyl and Nunacom

Prosyl used five raised dots; Nunacom had six. The extra is because Nunacom had two different dots for low-profile characters like ᓂ and ᕆ, while Prosyl made do with one. Unfortunately, the first four aren’t the same either. The difference wasn’t crucial: some typists probably used the middle dot (Prosyl `, Nunacom |) for everything. Or typed it in that way and then did some global replaces. A quick look at a random issue of the Nunavut Hansard suggests that the typists were fairly capricious in their long-vowel choices. Some dots don’t seem to have been used at all.

Prosyl key position key Nunacom
font sample font sample
jii; uu, puu, tuu, vuu, ruu; kaa, gaa, maa, saa, jaa, raa > far left ] jii; uu, puu; kaa, gaa, maa, saa, jaa; ngaa, nngaa **
left } kii, gii, mii; ngii, nngii; tuu, vuu, ruu; raa **
kii, gii, mii, ii, pii, tii, vii, qii; qaa ` middle | ii, pii, tii, vii; kuu, guu; taa, qaa
kuu, guu; taa ] right + sii, qii; muu, suu, juu; aa, paa, vaa; quu, nguu, nnguu **
sii, ngii, muu, suu, juu, quu, nguu; aa, paa, vaa, ngaa; nngii, nngaa, nnguu * < far right
nii, lii, rii, łii, nuu, luu, łuu, naa, laa, łaa ~ lower ` nii, lii, rii, łii; naa, laa, łaa
~ nuu, luu, łuu

* Prosyl has no separate characters for ᙱ, ᙳ or ᙵ (short or long). All forms are made by combination with final ᓐ, as in ᓐ + ᖏ = ᓐᖏ. You can see from the pictures that this did not look much nicer in Prosyl than it does in modern fonts. In fact I own a recently printed children’s book that uses the same system—though frankly they’ve got no excuse.

** In Nunacom, the long versions of the ᖏ and ᙱ series are made by combination: ᖕ + ᒌ = ᖐ, ᖖ + ᒌ = ᙲ and so on. The single letter ᖂ (but not ᖀ and ᖄ) is made similarly: ᕐ + ᑰ = ᖂ.

Long Vowels in Naamajut, AiPaiNunavik
. . . and Nunacom again

These unrelated fonts had one thing in common: precombined long vowels. About half of the character assignments were the same. This may be more coincidence than design—especially for the scant handful that were shared only by Nunacom and AiPaiNunavik—but I’ve marked the agreements anyway.


shared by all


Nunacom and Naamajut


Naamajut and AiPaiNunavik


Nunacom and AiPaiNunavik (rare)


Now, wait a minute. Didn’t you just get through saying that Nunacom used dots, like Prosyl?

They did. But the font also had a full package of precombined characters for use on, I guess, alternate Tuesdays. Or possibly for when the typist had a Mac and wanted to take advantage of the Option key. In any case, an awful lot of the character equivalents are shared with Naamajut, which was unequivocally a Mac font.

ßÍ©ƒÅ˚˙¬Ô ÎåÁÒ

The greyed-out characters are a bit of a mystery to me. The computer says that ᒨ and ᒫ correspond to ∆ and µ, just as in Naamajut—but if I try to type them, the font says it has never heard of them. The ᐋ corresponds to ⋲—a character that didn’t exist in either the Mac or Windows character sets. And ᕘ ends up at F000, in a Private Use Area—though not the same one used by Naamajut for this character.

But don’t quote me.


Disclaimer: I know very little about Naamajut, beyond the obvious fact that it’s a Mac font. Much of what I do know comes from trial and error, since it isn’t included in my favorite transcoder. And, finally, most of the details are only interesting to people who have been Mac users since the very beginning. If you still remember the transition from System 6 to System 7, the Naamajut page is for you.

For everyone else, here are the character correspondences as far as I’ve been able to work them out.



That � is not a mistake. Long ᕘ ought to match the  character—codepoint F8FF, in a Private Use Area. Instead it ended up on the Unicode Replacement Character, codepoint FFFD. It probably started out as a character in a Mac-only range; AUJAQ has the same problem.

And, just to confuse us, there are at least two ways to make ᐋ: either with ⋲ as in precombined Nunacom, or with ≈.

Finally, there are two dots, like other fonts’ long-vowel marks. The high one corresponds to ˇ (hacek, just as in AiPaiNunavik); the low one is at ˛ (ogonek). Neither of them seems to be a non-advance character, though.


So far I haven’t been able to find out for sure if AiPaiNunavik was a Mac font, using the existing dead keys, or whether it came with its own keyboard. If you type it on a Mac, some of the most convenient keys are used for assorted punctuation marks. This points pretty strongly to pre-existing dead keys.

Meanwhile, let’s not even try a keyboard layout.


There is one character I haven’t shown: a raised dot, just like in Naamajut. It even corresponds to the same character, ˇ (hacek). There was only one of it, but it held itself high—far too high to be used as punctuation.