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Linking research & learning technologies through standards » Nick Nicholas

Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος
(Greek Linguistics)

2009-03-29

[GEEK]: eeePC travails #4: Polytonic eeePC

Ooh boy. This took a while.

There is a built in Greek keyboard on the eeePC Xandros distro. Just as well, given that Xandros is named after X Windows and the Greek island of Andros. (There's a Bahaman island of Andros too: who knew...)

The built in Greek keyboard was not difficult to install; and it even came with a polytonic mode. I activated the polytonic mode. Graves, circumflexes, iota subscripts, all OK.

No breathings.

Now that's odd, especially as noone seemed to have reported that particular problem. I tried to install Simos Xenitellis' update to the Greek keyboard. That went worse: the keyboard file was not even recognised by Xandros. I then embarked on, I dunno, four or five hours of config file roulette, until I got things working. Herewith the summary.


  1. The first polytonic keyboard for Linux used dead keys for smooth and rough breathings (psili and dasia): they arbitrarily picked horn and ogonek as the smooth and rough breathing dead keys.
  2. This was a hack, and intervened with non–Greek-locale use of these Vietnamese and Polish diacritics; so they were corrected in later releases to the backspacing diacritics U0313 and U0314
  3. which later still were recorrected to U10000313 and U10000314.
  4. ... Overall, the keyboard has been unstable over the years.
  5. I didn't find Xenitellis' post on the keyboard not working—which surprises me; but though it may have given me some hints earlier than I worked them out, I don't think it would have solved things.
  6. The built in keyboard and mapping (/usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/gr, and /usr/share/X11/locale/el_GR.UTF-8/Compose or /usr/share/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Compose) had U+0313 and U+0314 as the dead keys for breathings. Xandros was treating these strictly as backspacing diacritics, so typing them before the vowel as dead keys had no effect.
  7. Xenitellis' update defined the new dead keys dead_psili and dead_dasia. Xandros ignored these. Presumably the new dead key definitions haven't been compiled into Xandros.
  8. The old hacks dead_horn and dead_ogonek are still in the composition tables. But switching the keyboard to use these is utterly ignored too.
  9. The eventual solution for me was to grab two other arbitrary dead keys, which were already defined for Latin alphabet keyboards, and were likelier to be recognised than horn and ogonek. I went for caron and cedilla.
  10. I then globally replaced U+0313 or dead_psili or dead_horn or whatever I got up to in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/gr (the original, not Xenitellis') with dead_caron, and dead_ogonek with dead_cedilla
  11. And I did likewise in the keyboard mapping file: /usr/share/X11/locale/en_US.UTF-8/Compose, not /usr/share/X11/locale/el_GR.UTF-8/Compose , because I had not successfully convinced the eeePC it was in downtown Salonica.
  12. Things then worked. With that familiar sinking feeling of spending five hours to get something working that should have taken five seconds.
  13. In playing config roulette, I enabled Multi-Key symbol composition, which I had only vaguely heard about twenty years ago, but which I wouldn't mind making my friend. Multi-keys worked fine with Latin characters, but were ignored for Greek characters, even after I studied up on custom keyboards and told the keyboard file that key <MENU> { [ Multi_key ] }; ("THE MENU KEY IS THE MULTI-KEY DAMMIT!") Pity, I liked the multi-key mappings...
  14. Caron is used with Greek consonants in Greek dialectology by some practitioners. (So κ̌αι or κ̑αι [tʃe, tɕe] for Standard Greek και [ce].) If I want to transcribe Greek dialect in Greek script, though, I think I might switch over to the Mac...)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The issue with the difficulties you faced is due to the old X.org and gtk+ that Xandros ships.
If you use Ubuntu for eeePC, then Greek Polytonic works out of the box (requires Ubuntu 8.10 or newer).
Ubuntu 9.04 has the new Greek layout that combines modern Greek and Greek Polytonic as the default Greek layout.

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