Re: Hebrew hataf vowels (was: About CGJ)

From: Peter Kirk (
Date: Fri Jul 25 2003 - 09:29:49 EDT

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    On 25/07/2003 06:23, Jony Rosenne wrote:

    >>What was the consensus in the SII on how the holam vav vowel
    >>should be
    >>encoded? And what is the normal practice in Israel and for pointed
    >>modern Hebrew? Is that holam encoded after the vav or before it?
    And John Hudson encodes before. Clearly there is an ambiguity which
    needs to be resolved.

    If holam is encoded after vav, it is difficult to make the typographical
    distinction when it is required. The renderer needs to look backwards.
    Basically, if vav-holam occurs after a consonant with no vowel point, it
    is a vowel and so should be rendered as a vowel with the holam to the
    right. But if it occurs after a vowel it is a consonant.

    But consider the seventh word in Jeremiah 52:19, which, as you would
    encode it, ends qof hiriq yod zaqef-qatan vav holam tav. (This hiriq yod
    vav holam sequence is in fact unique in the WTS Bible text.) In this
    case, is the yod a consonant followed by a holam-vav vowel, or is the
    hiriq-yod a vowel followed by a consonantal vav and a simple holam
    vowel? (How would this actually be pronounced in modern Hebrew, with a V
    sound of not?) BHS prints holam above the right side of vav, implying
    that the holam-vav is understood as a vowel, and has a footnote that
    many manuscripts and editions have a dagesh in the yod, which makes this
    understanding unambiguous.

    If a font is to make the rendering distinction which is required by the
    more careful typesetters, there need to be clear definitions of the
    contexts, and the font needs to be able to implement these decisions on
    the fly. This may be a bit much to ask. Certainly the renderer cannot
    engage in textual criticism as the BHS editors did! John Hudson's
    preferred encoding is also difficult to implement, but probably not so

    On the other hand, we have to recognise that the vav holam ordering for
    holam-vav is in common use already, in Israel and in three already
    issued editions of the Hebrew Bible in Unicode. So there is a good
    argument for trying to implement this ordering in fonts, perhaps in
    addition to John Hudson's preference. And then holam vav and vav holam
    can perhaps be defined as compatibility equivalents (tricky because
    other marks may intervene in canonical order) and/or folded together for
    searches etc.

    Peter Kirk

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