Current Blackfoot keyboard layouts are designed to convert text typed using a Latin keyboard into Blackfoot syllabics. For example, typing "siksika" would cause "ᓱᖽᐧᖿ" to appear. This system would be very easy to learn for anyone with prior knowledge of the Latin alphabet and keyboard, and considering that most Blackfoot speakers are, might be the most practical layout. That said, I think there is some value in having the option of an alternative layout that does not require people to use the latin alphabet. As we discussed when assessing Kazakh keyboards, matters of principle are also relevant when making language resources. Considering that the Blackfoot language and customs have long been repressed in favor of those of English-speaking settlers, and members of the community have often struggle to live on their own terms under the assimilationist policies of US Canadian governments, it is possible that some speakers might prefer a layout that does not require users to adopt another alphabet. I tried to create a layout that could serve as such an alternative. The layout is admittedly somewhat experimental, but I think it has some potential merits, which I explain below.
- All syllabics keys are located on either the "QWERTY..." or the "ASDFGH..." rows.
- My layout uses seven fewer keys than the Latin layout, which I found convenient because it meant I could eliminate the entire bottom row and have no unused keys in the top two rows. I thought it would be awkward to have the unused keys spread throughout the main typing area. Also, consolidating all of the keys in two rows should reduce the amount that one's hands have to move when typing, making typing more efficient.
- All the standard consonants are located on the left side, while vowels and medial consonant symbols are located on the right.
- This way both hands are more or less equally engaged. Since Blackfoot phonological constraints allow for very few consonant clusters, and words in the form "CVCV..." are the majority, using this layout mostly involves alternating back and forth between the left and right hands. I don't know if having this kind of predictable typing pattern/rhythm will make typing easier, but I think it's a possibility. This is something I'd like to test as I get more accustomed to using the layout.
- Typing a standard consonant followed by a vowel will result in the appropriate combinatorial glyph.
- If not followed by a vowel, a standard consonant will appear as a word final consonant symbol.
- Numbers and punctuation marks correspond with those of the QWERTY keyboard.