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If you download and expand the full Noto Sans font you will find separate OTF files for "CJK" Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The files have a two-letter section in the filename for the target language. "jp"="Japanese"; "kr"="Korean" and "sc"="Simplified Chinese".

  • NotoSansCJKjp-Light.otf
  • NotoSansCJKkr-Light.otf
  • NotoSansCJKsc-Light.otf

When I open the Korean file, I see that the simplified Chinese characters are in the file. It also appears to contain Japanese characters. Why is this? If there are separate files for each language, why is there any overlap?

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I'm not an expert in Korean, nor do I speak it. However, a cursory search of the internet reveals that Koreans still use Chinese characters in the field of law, for clan names which are still traditionally written in Chinese characters, and in other historical contexts.

Korean was originally written with Chinese characters before the 15th century when Hangul was invented. So if you need to study/read/quote old texts that aren't in modern Hangul, you may need Chinese characters.

EDIT

After doing a little more research on the fonts, it appears that the language variant of each font contains all the characters used by the other languages, and the Noto CJK help page says the following:

Noto Sans CJK and Noto Serif CJK comprehensively cover Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in a unified font family. This includes the full coverage of CJK Ideographs with variation support for 4 regions, Kangxi radicals, Japanese Kana, Korean Hangul, and other CJK symbols and letters in the Basic Multilingual Plane of Unicode. It also provides limited coverage of CJK Ideographs in Plane 2 of Unicode as necessary to support standards from China and Japan.

And further down the page.

Language-specific OpenType/CFF (OTF)

Each font sets one language as the default. Note that each language-specific font does support all four languages and includes the complete set of glyphs. However, you need an application program that can invoke an OpenType locl GSUB feature (e.g. Adobe InDesign) to access language-specific variants other than the default language.

There's a lot more information on the help page, probably best to refer to that for a full explanation.

  • Yeah, I had heard about the Chinese origin but if that’s the case why separate SC and KR at all and why include JP? I am thinking that maybe each file—JP,SC,KR—has every character from the target language and then fills the remaining 65,535 glyphs with the most popular characters from the other languages just in case. It makes the files huge and there’s a performance drawback to stuffing it with unnecessary characters. For instance the Thai file doesn’t have unnecessary characters. Maybe the CJK characters have more in common than I understand. – jedatu Jan 27 at 17:09
  • Presumably because then Koreans only need to install the fonts that contain glyphs that they actually use, same for Japanese, and Chinese. As for Thais, they don't use Chinese characters, and never have. Their writing system is an abugida derived from Indian/Brahmic scripts, not Chinese. – Billy Kerr Jan 27 at 17:34
  • Are you saying Koreans also use Japanese glyphs? I can’t tell if you understand my point. Why are CS, JP, and KR in separate files if each file fully contains the others’ character sets? Is it that the characters are the same but the style of the characters is different? – jedatu Jan 27 at 22:33
  • No. I didn't say that, but after doing a little more research, I think the Noto CJK help page probably answers your question better. It says the fonts contain all the glyphs used by each country. However, under the heading "Language-Specific Open Type" It says "Each font sets one language as the default". This appears to be the reason there are different font files for each language. – Billy Kerr Jan 28 at 11:03
  • I have now updated my answer to include the relevant quotes from the Noto CJK help page. – Billy Kerr Jan 28 at 11:25

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