I'm editing some documents for my institution and need a few Demotic (ancient Egyptian script) characters:

  • Alef: and ; Unicode: U+A723 and U+A722.
  • Ayin: and ; Unicode: U+A725 and U+A724.^1

It has to be compiled with pdfLaTeX using the noto font from TL. The original Google Noto font, from which the noto package is a drawn, supports all of these characters.

Unfortunately, I can't get it to work. I tried the simple \char"A723. As it didn't work out, I tried some simpler characters. It is possible to produce an ä with \char"00E4, but even the try to produce a λ with \char"03BB throws an error. That the noto font package can produce Greek letters is obvious (like in math or with \usepackage[greek]{babel}).

This may be kind of a beginner's question, but I have no experience with those special characters, thus, any help is appreciated.

Here's a short MWE (with the different tests and a working lambda):




\char"00E4 % German ä

% \char"A723 % Demotic Alef

% \char"03BB % lambda

\foreignlanguage{greek}{l} % lambda

  • 4
    pdftex is 8 bit; fonts have at most 256 characters and \char"FF is the highest value so \char"A723. can not work, why can you not use luatex which can use unicode? Sep 4, 2023 at 9:45
  • if you need only a few: make small pictures with the standalone package + lualatex and include them with \includegraphics. Sep 4, 2023 at 10:09
  • @DavidCarlisle, thanks for the fast explanation. I knew about the general restricition of pdftex, but not the concrete border. So far, I can't use luatex simply because the template I have to use is bound to pdflatex. I will try to change that, since not being able to use such charactes may be a strong argument for my supervisors...
    – lukeflo
    Sep 4, 2023 at 10:16
  • For the specific problem, I'll get @UlrikeFischer hint a try. I'll provide an answer as soon as I realised it.
    – lukeflo
    Sep 4, 2023 at 10:24
  • 1
    @lukeflo better if you post a tested self answer, it's all Greek to me... (I can survive without the +15 points:-) Sep 4, 2023 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


Thanks to the hint by @UlrikeFischer and @DavidCarlisle I came up with the following solution (as someone can already guess from the comments):

For those few very special Demotic characters its of course the easiest way to use lualatex and the respective unicode values. A solution for pdflatex is possible but means too much effort for a few characters.

Since in my case we especially deal with ancient scripts it was important to keep the possibility of typing ancient Greek text using LGR or beta-code. Thus, the initial need for pdflatex.

But there are already two little bit hidden features of the babel package which offers the possibility to use beta-code.

  1. The ibycus-babel offers full beta-code support, but with a fixed font which is not changed by the set main font etc. Also compilable with pdflatex!
  2. A not yet submitted and neither fully elaborated babel version betagreek which, as of today, doesn't support all beta-code modificators, but is affected by the chosen font (as long as the font supports the Greek characters)

So here is the document which solves the unicode question and offers examples for both Greek typesetting possibilities (has to be compiled with lualatex):


% \usepackage[light]{noto} % Can process ibycus-input with pdflatex, but no unicode


% In the following, more rules for transliteration have to be declared
\babelprehyphenation{betagreek}{ ([ahiuw]) = }{
  string = {1|ahiuw|ᾶῆῖῦῶ},
\babelprehyphenation{betagreek}{ ([aehiouw]) {)} / }{
  string = {1|aehiouw|ἄἔἤἴὄὔὤ},
  remove, remove
\babelprehyphenation{betagreek}{ ([aehiouw]) {(} }{
  string = {1|aehiouw|ἁἑἡἱὁὑὡ},
\babelprehyphenation{betagreek}{ ([aehiouw]) {)} }{
  string = {1|aehiouw|ἀἐἠἰὀὐὠ},
\babelprehyphenation{betagreek}{ ([aehiouw]) / }{
  string = {1|aehiouw|άέήίόύώ},
  string = {1|abgdezhqiklmncoprstufxyw%


\char"00E4 % German ä

\char"A723 % Demotic Alef

\char"03BB % lambda


\ibygr{a)rxai=a gra'mmata}

% Not all modificators are supported, e.g. majuskel:
\foreignlanguage{betagreek}{O('mhros. a)rxai=a gra/mmata}


(There seem to be more packages like teubner and betababel which I didn't test so far.)

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