Mac keyboard layout for Gwich’in

This page offers a keyboard layout file to assist with Gwich’in diacritics, plus installation and usage instructions.


Current convention for Gwich’in transcription uses several unusual diacritics added Latin characters (graphemes) to represent low and nasal vowel tones. While single Unicode characters exist for low tones (grave accented vowels) and nasals (vowels with ogneks), no single Unicode characters exist for the combination of both (e.g., ą̀), and Unicode combining characters must be used. See the table below for the characters codes used. These combining Unicode characters should display correctly in most situations, but please not that some fonts and applications may displace the combining character to the left or right.


1. Download keyboard file

First download this ZIP file called (Hold down the Control key, and then click on the link and ‘Save As...’). Double-click on the downloaded file to unzip it.

2. Copy to Library

Next you need to get the Gwichin.keylayout file to the Keyboard Layouts folder in the Library folder.

Method 1: Using the Finder

Mac hides the Library folder from you usually, but you can see it this way: In the Finder:

  1. Find the Gwichin.keylayout file you just downloaded. It may not be called Gwichin.keylayout, but just Gwichin because Mac may hide the suffix from you. Copy the file (Command-C).
  2. Hold down the Option (aka Alt) key, and click on the Go menu item; you should see ‘Library’ listed - click on it.
  3. Find the Keyboard Layouts folder and paste the file inside that folder (Command-V).

Method 2: Using Ukelele

Ukelele is a SIL program for editing keyboard layouts. It was used to create this Gwich’in layout file. It is not needed for the installation of the file, but provides an alternative method if the above method does not work.

  1. Download the latest version of Ukelele and install as directed.
  2. Open the Gwichin.keylayout file, with ‘Open’ in the File menu. A keyboard should appear, with ‘Gwich’in’ in its window’s title bar. You can click on the Modifier keys (see below) to see how the main keys are affected.
  3. In the file menu, select ‘Install...’ -> ‘Show organizer’
  4. Drag ‘Gwichin’ from the first pane to the third pane.

3. Activate the keyboard layout

Finally, restart your Mac. This is not necessarily needed, but should ensure that the new keylayout file is found.

Then go the System Preferences, and click on Keyboard. Make sure the ‘Show Input menu in menu bar’ box is checked. In the ‘Input Sources’ tab, click on ‘+’ to add a new source. Scroll down and click on ‘Others’. You should see ‘Gwich’in’ listed. Click on it. It will now appear in the Keyboard Layout menu (the flag) in the top menubar.


When you want to input Gwich’in diacritic characters, click on the flag in the top-right of the menu bar, and select ‘Gwich’in’. Go to the document you are editing. All normal (small) characters, and Shift (capital) characters are still available as usual, and the usual Command characters (e.g. Command-Tab for switch window) still work. But certain combinations of Control and Option will give Gwich’in diacritics to certain keys:

 OPT       + a -> ą   U+0105
       CTL + a -> à   U+00E0
 OPT + CTL + a -> ą̀   U+0105 U+0300 (combining grave)

 OPT       + e -> ę   U+0119
       CTL + e -> è   U+00E8
 OPT + CTL + e -> ę̀   U+0119 U+0300 (combining grave)

 OPT       + i -> į   U+012F
       CTL + i -> ì   U+00EC
 OPT + CTL + i -> į̀   U+00EC U+0328 (combining ognek)

 OPT       + o -> ǫ   U+01EB
       CTL + o -> ò   U+00F2
 OPT + CTL + o -> ̀ǫ   U+01EB U+0300 (combining grave)

 OPT       + u -> ų   U+0173
       CTL + u -> ù   U+00F9
 OPT + CTL + u -> ų̀   U+0173 U+0300 (combining grave)

 OPT        + l -> ł  U+0142
 OPT + SHFT + l -> Ł  U+0141 

Use with Microsoft Word

Some of the current default key bindings in Microsoft Word duplicate standard Command key usages (e.g. CMD + i = italicize) with the Control key (CTL + i = italicize), probably because Windows users have learned the Control key bindings. This use of the Control key clashes with the above key bindings for CTL + a, i, and u. To use the Gwich’in bindings in Word you must deactivate the CTL combinations:

  1. Select the ‘Tool’ drop down menu. Select ‘Customize Keyboard’. Select ‘All Commands’ in the menu on the left in the pop-up window.
  2. In search, type in ‘italicize’. In the list of commands select ‘Control + i’ and hit the 'remove’ button.
  3. In search type in ‘underline’. In the list of commands select ‘Control + u’ and hit ‘remove’ button.
  4. In search type in ‘selectall’. In the list of commands select ‘Control + a’ and hit ‘remove’ button.
  5. Hit ‘OK’ in the pop-up window to accept all the changes that were made.

(Thanks to Evon Peter for discovering and finding the fix for this.)