From: John Hudson (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Jun 25 2003 - 19:47:44 EDT
At 03:29 PM 6/25/2003, Kenneth Whistler wrote:
> > This is not simply
> > 'non-traditional' but results in incorrect rendering and a different
> > vocalisation of the text.
>I don't think this is true.
>First, the intent of the (admittedly problematical) fixed position
>combining classes was that the position of the relevant marks,
>including the relevant Hebrew points, was fixed with respect to
>the consonant base letter, so that application of one would not
>impact the rendering of application of another.
This idea of Hebrew vowels as 'fixed' marks is problematical, because in
Biblical Hebrew they are not fixed: they move relative to additional marks
(other vowels or cantillation marks).
>It may be more *difficult* for applications to do correct rendering,
>but there was never any intention in the standard that I know
>of that a sequence <hiriq, patah> would render differently
>than a sequence <patah, hiriq>.
Yes, this is what I am saying is wrong: <hiriq, patah> *should* render
differently from <patah, hiriq>. This example is particularly important,
because it occurs in the spelling of yerushalaim, the Masoretic
approximation of yerushalayim. Correct rendering requires that the hiriq
follows the patah, and not vice versa.
>And never any intent that it
>would represent a "different vocalisation of the text".
Fair enough for modern Hebrew. Fair enough for phonetically accurate
Hebrew. Not good enough for Biblical Hebrew in which vocalisation reflects
Masoretic pronunciation applied to ancient consonant structures.
> > The point is that hiriq before patah is *not*
> > canonically equivalent to patah before hiriq,
>This is true.
> > except in the erroneous
> > assumption of the Unicode Standard: the order of vowels makes words sound
> > different and mean different things.
>This is not. The Unicode Standard makes no assumptions or claims
>about what the phonological or meaning equivalence of <hiriq, patah>
>or <patah, hiriq> is for Biblical Hebrew.
But it does make assumptions about the canonical equivalence of the mark
orders <U+05B4, U+05B7> and <U+05B7, U+05B4>, unless my understanding of
the purpose of combining classes is completely mistaken. My understanding
is that any ordering of two marks with different combining classes is
canonically equivalent; further, I understand that some normalisation forms
will re-order marks to move marks with lower combining class values closer
to the base character. If the sequence <lamed, patah, hiriq, final mem> is
what the text says, normalisation that re-orders the sequence as <lamed,
hiriq, patah, final mem> is erroneous.
>The fact that traditional Biblical Hebrew spelling prefers one
>order of representation and canonically ordered Unicode text
>specifies the opposite order may be a problem for implementations,
>but that problem does not extend to the claims that John is
This isn't a problem for implementations. This is a problem of Unicode
canonical ordering re-ordering marks whose order is lexically significant.
The fact that, in some cases, the canonical ordering also cannot be
rendered with existing implementations simply makes the problem visually
> > In order to correctly encode and render the Biblical Hebrew text, it is
> > necessary to either a) never use normalisation routines that re-order
> > (which is beyond the control of document authors), or b) re-classify the
> > existing Hebrew marks so that all vowels are in a single class and will
> > be re-ordered during normalisation, or c) encode new marks for Biblical
> > Hebrew with all vowels in a single class.
>I don't think these conclusions following from the current
>Such changes are certainly not necessary in order to *render*
>Biblical Hebrew text correctly, nor to accurately represent
>the content of Biblical Hebrew text.
They are necessary to render Biblical Hebrew text correctly using current
font and layout engine technologies. These technologies work perfectly for
Biblical Hebrew so long as Unicode canonical ordering is ignored. I think
there is very little impetus to change or develop new implementations to
take into account what strikes most of those involved with Biblical Hebrew
text processing as an error in Unicode.
>The current situation is not optimal for implementations, nor
>does canonically ordered text follow traditional preferences
>for spelling order -- that we can agree on. But I think the
>claims of inadequacy for the representation or rendering
>of Biblical Hebrew text are overblown.
I've spent nine months working on Biblical Hebrew rendering for the major
user community (the Society of Biblical Literature and their Font
Foundation partners), and their take on this is that a) they want a
solution that works with today's technology, and b) they will avoid Unicode
canonical ordering like the plague and use custom normalisations instead.
When we conducted normalisation tests, switching from Unicode normalisation
of to a custom normalisation that does not re-order vowels or meteg*, we
increased the number of unique consonant + mark(s) sequences encoded in the
Old Testament text by more 340. This means that Unicode normalisation was
creating 340 textual ambiguities by treating lexically distinct sequences
as canonically equivalent. I don't think that kind of textual ambiguity is
* Meteg re-ordering is in some respects even more problematic than
multi-vowel re-ordering; certainly it is a more common problem. The meteg
can occur to the left or right of a vowel (sometimes the distinction is the
result of editorial intervention (see Kittel's original Biblia Hebraice
edition), left, right and hataf-itermediary meteg positioning are all found
in the ben Asher manuscripts). Unicode canonical ordering treats meteg as a
fixed position mark with a combining class higher than vowels, which
suggests that it always appears in the same position relative to vowels.
This is incorrect.
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who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint
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