IPA and single-storey 'a'

I’m designing a font for kids educational purpose with a ‘kids-friendly’ single-storey ‘a’.
But when writing IPA phonemes it gets a bit inconvenient since the ‘a’ sound gets confused with the ‘ɑ’ sound.
Since the font is for non-designer use (talking about teachers), is there any way to make the two-storey ‘a’ alternative appear only when writing IPA?

Here a picture:

I think you just have to accept that the a will be the same shape. After all, IPA letters are supposed to be mostly similar to Latin, and what about tons of other letters like n or d that are identical? Why is “a” the only letter that is questioned?

When was the last time the assumption that the single story “a” was questioned as reading better for beginning readers? I would like to see some new science on this. Is this really just making the reading “a” the same as the hand written “a” for consistency? Do children even learn cursive writing any more?

If it was my font I would make the IPA as a Stylistic Set. It would not be automatic though.


I have to agree with @Dezcom. Having a daughter that just learned reading, I can assure you that the idea that kids need simpler forms like a single story a is quit mislead. What kids need are shapes that are more distinct.

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You can have a single story a (to mimic handwriting) which is also distinct from other forms like the d and the o. Andika does this nicely:

There is an alternative a (on the right) as an “Literacy alternative”, as in long-form reading. As a data-point: Andika supports IPA, the a and the Latin alpha look the same.

There is also the IPPH language for the Latin script for use with the IPA, maybe that could trigger the a to assume the two-story form.

How about what @George_Thomas suggested, but in addition to that you deliver the font in two variants, one “ACME Font” default with the IPA as stylistic set, and one “ACME Font IPA” with IPA as default and the reverse as stylistic set.

Yep, it’s about consistency with the tracing font. Nothing to do with readability.
The font will be used in educational material for very young kids in mainland China, so not so latin familiar. We introduce the two-storey ‘a’ and other style character at later stages.

Because IPA point is to attach a different sound to each different character, that’s why it uses a much complex set of characters, to cover every sound.

Now that sounds like the low-tech friendly solution I need, reminds me of the pre-opentype times where the fonts came with an ‘ext’ version to add more than the 256 allowed characters.
Neat! Will certainly go for this, Thanks!

No I had forgotten that IPA used both single and double storey a’s and the latter doesn’t have a unique IPA code point. It gets worse when you have Greek in your font :slight_smile:

I would vote for two separate fonts as well; that’s much friendlier to non-designers.

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I might escalate the issue to Unicode, just for the fun.

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