Hebrew: glyphs vs. codepoints

From: Arno Schmitt (arno@zedat.fu-berlin.de)
Date: Sun May 30 1999 - 12:00:45 EDT

The five final forms of Hebrew consonants are just like the final
forms of most Arabic letters. They made it to Unicode codepoints
only because Hebrew has so few glyphs that the Israeli
Standardization body could place them all on a 7-bit block.
(For the exceptions ZWJ and ZWNJ were added. In Arabic there are
headers in dictionaries where all the letters of the first and
last word on the page are written in isolated form; other
exceptions are abbreviations, loan and dialect word.)

But better five redundant letters than a missing one!
But, all "Unicode compiling" word processors mistake the block
0500 as a complete repertoire of Hebrew glyphs = the sign missing
in the block is not printable!
Hebrew has a holam to the right of a letter,
and a holam to the left of letter.
The difference between "(ma)tsot" (loafs of unleavened bread)
and "(mi)tswot" (obligations)
is the difference between right holam and left holam.
This occurs not only with waw, but with alef too,
cf. oax, otem, bo'i (with left holam)
and bo, rosh (with right holam).

I have no idea how many people have ever wondered why there is a
single free space in the middle of the Hebrew block: 05BA
There used to be both holams, 05B9 and 05BA.
This was simplified to one holam, because if the program know the
rules of Hebrew spelling well (rules like: sin, alef, waw
"attract" the holam that phonologically "belongs" to the preceding
consonant, shin "attracts" the holam that phonologically "belongs"
to the following consonant), and knows what the preceding and
following signs are, it finds the right form of (place for) holam.
But this is true of the five final shape of the consonants in
question as well.

I think we have to live with this inconsistency.
But there is no excuse for software developers,
- not to give us proper placing of the holam,
- not to provide us with proper shaping of Hebrew consonants (as
is done for Arabic and Indic scripts) - for thus to lazy to type
final forms where they regularly occur.

Arno Schmitt

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