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Map Digital Dialects: 5 Steps to Add Syllabics in ArcGIS Pro

Many of the major languages are represented within ArcGIS platform. But what about those that are not? For example, Indigenous language syllabics. How can those work within your data to ensure that you are conveying the information or message that you would like to your audience? With 5 easy steps we will show you how to display syllabics in your ArcGIS Pro Project. 

Communication through Maps 

Maps have been a means of visually communicating the world through a sheet of paper. You can illustrate shapes to describe mountains, lines to show the flow of rivers, and points to denote cities in a region. Famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once stated, “the limit of my language means the limits of my world.” Thus, a vital component of a map is its labels’ language.  

Digital Dialects 

A traditional place name represents not just the preservation of Indigenous languages but also revitalization of culture, and history. Take for example, the place name “Aulattivik”, which means “peninsulas where animals were hunted “, is an indication of how the Indigenous people of Qikiqtaaluk Region in Nunavut interacted with their surroundings and a way of expressing an important place and knowledge.  

What is also of importance is considering a language’s inability to capture the true essence or meaning of a word in another language. The ability to display the syllabic “iktsuarpok”, which roughly translates to “the feeling of anticipation of waiting for someone to arrive” on a map would have a much higher impact on the audience than them reading the word “iktsuarpok”. 

Image showing the island of “Aulattivik” on the Community Map of Canada.

Representation on the Community Map of Canada 

The Community Map of Canada uses authoritative sources such as the Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC) for place names on the map. Additionally, you can display syllabic to your map in ArcGIS Pro to authentically communicate with your audience with these five simple steps. 

Stepping through Syllabics  

  1. Review your datasets and identify key syllabics and find a matching font style that encapsulates the syllabics. The Community Map of Canada uses the “Masinahikan” font style to display the syllabics for places in Northern Canada from this link here. Other resources for indigenous font styles include: First Voices – an initiative of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

This image displays the site where “Masinahikan” has been sourced for the Community Map of Canada. From the site you can see the syllabics available for the font style.  This screenshot displays the contents of the .zip file that is downloaded from the site. In this folder are the .tff files associated with these fonts, included are three font styles: “Masinahikan_h.tff”, “Masinahikan_h_Semi.tff” and “Masinahikan_h_Bold.tff”.

  1. Download the font and navigate to the following location on your machine using File Explorer: “C:\Windows\Fonts”   

  2. Copy the .tff files into this folder location. The Community Map of Canada uses the “Masinahikan Regular” font style which was selected and installed onto our machines. File Explorer image showing the system location for your machine’s fonts: “C:\Windows\Fonts”. The screenshot shows that the .tff file for the Masinahikan

  3. Open ArcGIS Pro and select the layer you wish to label   

  4. Select the new font in the label properties.   

When selecting a feature layer, the “Labelling” tab shows up in the ribbon of ArcGIS Pro. When selecting the “Labelling” tab, there is an option to change the font of the feature layer. At this step you would select the font that you loaded onto your system.

The Community Map of Canada uses the “Masinahikan Regular” font style which was selected and installed onto our machines. 

In 5 simple steps, you can now leverage the depth of language by preserving the cultural context of a language. You can also follow these steps in a video.

You can learn more about The Community Map of Canada and the Living Atlas of the World - Canadian Edition at the 2022 Canadian Open Data Summit.  

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here

About the Author

Mychelle Wong is a GIS Consultant in the Community Maps team at Esri Canada. She works with the Community Maps team to process contributor data for inclusion in the basemap and developing workflows to improve automated basemap processes. Mychelle has a bachelor degree in Geographical Sciences from the University of British Columbia and a post-graduate certificate in GIS from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Outside of work, you can find Mychelle field mapping cafes and coffee shops or hunting for new recipes to try.

Profile Photo of Mychelle Wong