RE: Japanese RTL (was RE: Mongolian (was RE: Syriac and Mongolian joi

From: Reynolds, Gregg (
Date: Mon Jan 10 2000 - 14:10:38 EST

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Cowan []
> Sent: Monday, January 10, 2000 11:06 AM
> "Reynolds, Gregg" wrote:
> > - An Arabic phrase book, which uses interlinear katakana
> > transliteration, RTL so as to mirror the RTL Arabic. This
> one I bought, so
> > when I get around to it I'll put a snippet up on my website.
> This is probably a real exception. Similarly, sheet music for Hebrew
> songs writes each syllable RTL per usual Hebrew rules, but
> between syllables
> the flow is LTR, as that is the norm for (Western) musical notation.

Yes and no. The bookstore where I found it had quite a few grammars,
dictionaries, etc. for Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Hebrew, and I examined
them all and found only a few examples of RTL transliteration. Most used
parallel, LTR romaji transliteration. So in that sense it is literally
unusual. But on the other hand, I think it does demonstrate the basic
horizontal neutrality of Japanese letterforms, since it (and other examples)
shows that it is at least possible to publish such text. I think most
native readers of English, by contrast, would consider a latinate RTL
transcription completely beyond the pale; I can't imagine a publisher
agreeing to such a practice.

Your example of sheet music and Hebrew is interesting. It's basically the
same problem one faces in designing an interlinear translation where the two
languages have opposite horizontal orientations. I wonder what an
interlinear Japanese translation of an Arabic text would look like; I
suspect it would run RTL. Some English interlinear translations of Arabic
that I've seen behave like your Hebrew music example (if I remember
correctly). That is, each English word or phrase reads LTR internally, but
the line follows the order of the Arabic words and is organized RTL.


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