Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ruby characters are small, annotative characters placed above or to the side of an ideogram when writing ideographic languages. Typically called just ruby or rubi, such annotations are usually used as a pronunciation guide for relatively obscure characters.
The following example uses tables to render Japanese ruby characters above the kanji for Tokyo ("東京"):
Note: The font size has been increased to show details.
Here is an example of the Chinese ruby characters for Beijing ("北京"):
Uses of ruby
Ruby may be used for different reasons:
- because the character is rare and the pronunciation unknown to many — personal name characters often fall into this category;
- because the character has more than one pronunciation, and the context is insufficient to determine which to use;
- because the intended readers of the text are still learning the language and are not expected to know the pronunciation;
- to emphasize a pun or joke using an alternate reading for kanji characters — for example, comic books often employ ruby to emphasize puns (dajare, ).
Also, ruby may be used to show the meaning, rather than pronunciation, of a possibly-unfamiliar (usually foreign) or slang word. This is generally used with spoken dialogue and may apply only to Japanese.
Ruby is most often used in Japanese and Chinese publications. The most common form of ruby is called furigana or yomigana and is found in Japanese instructional books, newspapers, and books for children.
In Chinese, the practice of providing phonetic cues via ruby is rare, but does occur systematically in grade-school level text books or dictionaries. The Chinese have no special name for this practice, as it is not as widespread as in Japan. When it does occur, Chinese phonetic systems such as Zhuyin or Hanyu Pinyin are used.
Ruby is not restricted to printed material; it is used in handwriting, as well.
In Japanese, certain characters, such as the small tsu (っ) that indicates a pause before the consonant it precedes, are normally written at about half the size of normal characters. When written as ruby, however, such characters are usually the same size as other ruby characters.
Ruby was originally the name of a British 5.5-point typeface originally used for annotations in printed documents. In Japanese, rather than referring to the name of a typeface, the word came to refer to typeset furigana. When translated back into English, the word was rendered by some as "rubi", which is the standard romanization of the Japanese word ルビ. However, the spelling "ruby" has become more common since a W3C recommendation for ruby markup was published.
In 2001, the W3C published the Ruby Annotation specification for supplementing XHTML with ruby markup. Ruby markup is is not a standard part of HTML 4.01 or any of the XHTML 1.0 specifications (XHTML-1.0-Strict, XHTML-1.0-Transitional, and XHTML-1.0-Frameset), but was incorporated into the XHTML 1.1 specification.
Support for ruby markup in web browsers is limited, as XHTML 1.1 is not yet widely implemented. Ruby markup is partially supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer (5.0+) for Windows and Macintosh, but is not supported by Mozilla, Firefox, Safari/Konqueror or Opera.
Ruby markup support can be added to some browsers that support custom extensions. For example, an unofficial extension that allows Netscape 7, Mozilla, and Firefox to properly render ruby markup, under certain circumstances, is available.
Ruby markup is structured such that a fallback rendering, consisting of the ruby characters in parentheses immediately after the main text, will appear if the browser does not have support for ruby.
Ruby markup examples
The hiragana and bopomofo examples from above are repeated below, using ruby markup.
The markup is shown first, and the rendered markup is shown next. Your browser will either render it with the correct size and positioning as shown in the table-based examples above, or will use the fallback rendering with the ruby characters in parentheses:
Complex ruby markup is also possible, but it is not supported by Wikipedia.
- W3C: Ruby Annotation specification
- W3C: XHTML 1.1 Specification
- Web Specifications supported in Opera 7
- XHTML Ruby Support - An extension to add ruby markup support to Netscape 7, Mozilla, and Firefox
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