Re: Biblical Hebrew (U+034F Combining Grapheme Joiner works)

From: Ted Hopp (
Date: Fri Jul 04 2003 - 16:58:16 EDT

  • Next message: Anto'nio Martins-Tuva'lkin: "Re: Documents needed for proposal"

    I have just spent several hours reading through all of the postings of the
    last few weeks related to the problems arising from the current combining
    classes for Hebrew vowels. I appreciate how much thought so many people have
    given to this issue.

    I am an owner of a small software company that makes learning software. We
    use Unicode throughout and have received compliments from our customers
    about how user-friendly our Hebrew support is, particularly on entry of

    The current Unicode vowels have been a problem for us. Because the combining
    classes are wrong, our software ignores vowel combining classes. We wrote
    custom software to handle multiple vowels on a letter. Frankly, I would
    welcome the "disruption" of correcting the combining classes of existing
    Hebrew vowels. It would allow us to retire code that we didn't want to write
    in the first place and would rather not maintain. Can anyone point to,
    describe, or even hypothesize a useful application for the current combining
    class assignments for Hebrew vowels? Nevertheless, it seems that changing
    combining classes is harder than changing the Ten Commandments (to keep with
    the Biblical theme).

    For what it's worth, among the other proposals I've read so far, the one to
    use CGJ seems at the moment to be the one that, for us, would do the least
    harm. However, we have not fully evaluated the impact of any of these on our

    From a business perspective, having to support two Hebrew vowel systems
    would be anathema to us. The proposed change would have a direct, negative
    impact on us and on our customers. On us, because our software is not
    application-specific. We support both "modern Hebrew" and "Biblical Hebrew".
    (The quotes are because we don't actually make such a distinction.) On our
    customers, because they would have to learn and understand the subtle
    differences between Hebrew vowels and Biblical Hebrew vowels. Our user
    interface would have to change in ways that I don't even want to think
    about. Functions like searching, sorting, and copy-and-paste from existing
    Biblical text materials would become a nightmare, not to mention documents
    that mix Biblical and modern text. (Here's a nice little scenario: copy a
    word, paste it into a "find" dialog, and then watch it not find the same
    word encoded with the other vowel system.) I can't imagine how we would
    explain all this to our typical user.

    If there were to be two Hebrew vowel systems in Unicode, I can tell you what
    we would do: move everything to the vowel system that behaves correctly. (Of
    course, we would then have to write migration software for all the existing
    text users have in our system, and design it to be transparent to our users.
    We would also have to think through how interaction with external
    applications would work; that wouldn't be transparent to our users. A lot of
    work, but much less than supporting two vowel systems internally.)

    At the core, this seems to be driven by politics between Unicode, ISO, IETF,
    and who knows who else. Speaking as someone with over 30 years experience in
    the computer industry, including a decade or so serving on technical
    standards committees at the U.S. and ISO levels, I can assert that seeking
    technical solutions to political problems is generally very bad news. I
    fully support trying to "do it right" by working through the political
    process with these other organizations. The time it takes is time well

    Ted Hopp

    Ted Hopp, Ph.D.
    ZigZag, Inc.

    newSLATE is your personal learning workspace
       ...on the web at

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Jul 04 2003 - 17:38:46 EDT