In How to ensure the first letter of a footnote is always uppercase? I received an answer as to how proper capitalisation of Arabic surnames beginning with the definite article "al" could be ensured in citations and the bibliographie by using i.e. \autocap{a}l-Kabīr. Unfortunately, that approach means that all such names appear under "A" in a bibliography sorted by name (in the case of this example, "K" would be expected).

Is there a way to get both, proper capitalisation and proper sorting?

  • This seems to be exactly what sortname is for (see p. 27 of the biblatex doc). You would probably have author = {\autocap{a}l-Kabīr} for right capitalisation and sortname = {al-Kabīr}, for correct sorting.
    – moewe
    Aug 2, 2015 at 15:30
  • Thanks for the comment, @moewe! I tried to make it work with sortname, adding labelalpha=true and changing to sorting=anyt as per the discussion in tex.stackexchange.com/questions/42382/…. Still doesn't work, though. Could there be a bug in Biblatex (that's what's suggested over at the other question).
    – Sixtyfive
    Aug 2, 2015 at 16:28
  • I don't see any reason why you would want to turn on labels via labelalpha=true and sorting=anyt except of course if you want to use an alphabetic style instead of an authoryear one.
    – moewe
    Aug 2, 2015 at 16:35
  • BTW: The bug that matth seems to have noted in the post you linked to is not reproducible in my version of biblatex, but maybe I'm not getting what he hinted at.
    – moewe
    Aug 2, 2015 at 16:40
  • Now I have done some research myself, I think that sortname does not get the same stripping of diacritics and prefix treatment as author/editor and is read largely as is, so you need to get rid of the al- prefix yourself and cannot rely on Biber to do so. sortname = {Kabīr} should work.
    – moewe
    Aug 2, 2015 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


You can use the sortname field to specify exactly under which name (and where) the entry ought to be sorted (see p. 27 of the biblatex documentation).

What you have to keep in mind here is that Biber's sorting algorithm does apply the nosort options to the author and editor field and does remove the "al-" there prior to sorting, but does no such thing to the sortname field. (Whether or not that is by intention or should be considered a bug is up for discussion. I for one thought this behaviour quite unusual at first [technically Biber does not consider sortname to be of type_name], but I can definitely see the benefit of not touching the sortname field in any way and actually think this is the "correct" behaviour.) Refer to §3.1.6. The nosort option, p. 27, of the Biber documentation for more on the nosort option, its default value and what you can do with it.

So in sortname you need to give the name as you would like to have it sorted.

author = {\autocap{a}z-Zayn, Ahmad}
sortname = {Zayn, Ahmad}


author = {\autocap{a}l-Kabīr}
sortname = {Kabīr}

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