Re: Back to Hebrew -holem-waw vs waw-holem

From: Ted Hopp (
Date: Tue Jul 29 2003 - 14:20:08 EDT

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    Okay -- there are two Hebrew vowels that are not encoded in Unicode. Their
    (transliterated) Hebrew names are (caps indicate syllable accent): khoLAM
    maLE and shuRUQ. The kholam male LOOKS like a "vav with holam" [05D5.05B9]
    or the alphabetic presentation form FB4B (HEBREW LETTER VAV WITH HOLAM) and
    the shuruq LOOKS like a vav with dagesh [05D5.05BC] or the alphabetic
    presentation form FB35 (HEBREW LETTER VAV WITH DAGESH). (For the record, the
    Unicode HEBREW POINT HOLAM [05B9] is usually called khoLAM khaSER in

    The two vowels kholam male and shuruq have nothing to do with the consonant
    vav (HEBREW LETTER VAV) other than that they are written with the same
    glyph. In unpointed Hebrew text, the vav glyph is used to represent these
    vowels but, outside of ketiv male, the use is often optional (although
    sometimes strictly determined by tradition). (For instance, the name Aharon
    appears in Hebrew bible scrolls sometimes with a vav glyph after the resh
    and sometimes without. It would be nice if I could search for all
    occurrences of the name by doing a "match consonants only" search instead of
    having to resort to regular expressions.) In some texts (e.g., many of the
    books published by ArtScroll), the kholam male and vav with kholam are
    rendered differently--the former with the dot centered above the vav and
    latter with the dot somewhat more to the left. I have not seen a text that
    renders a shuruq differently than a vav with dagesh. (However, a dagesh has
    nothing to do with a shuruq, despite the nice little note in the Unicode
    code chart. A consonantal vav with a dagesh is NOT a shuruq.)

    Furthermore, context cannot be used to distinguish vav with kholam vs.
    kholam male. As I posted once before, at least one major dictionary uses a
    single consonant with both a patah and a kholam male (NOT a consonantal vav
    with kholam) to transliterate foreign words. Hebrew characters are used for
    much more than spelling Hebrew words.

    These different uses for the same (or approximately same) glyphs cannot, as
    far as I know, be distinguished in Unicode. (Putting a HEBREW POINT HOLAM in
    front of a HEBREW LETTER VAV would just associate the kholam with the
    preceding letter.) It might be nice if there were different code points for
    them. Alphabetic presentation forms don't quite do the trick. When I first
    saw it, I had assumed that FB4B was supposed to be used for kholam male (and
    that's what we use it for in our code). Of course, I could have assumed that
    it was intended for (consonantal) vav with kholam. However, that sequence
    automatically renders with the dot more to the left, so (for us) a
    presentation form was unnecessary in that case. Will all font designers who
    include Hebrew alphabetic presentation forms conform to my assumptions? Can
    anyone authoritatively say what was intended? I don't think so. This is a

    Other typographic curiosities: The HEBREW POINT QAMATS [05B8] is used for
    two Hebrew vowels: qamats katan (pronounced in Israeli Hebrew like the 'o'
    in American English 'corn', as is kholam male) and qamats gadol (pronounced
    like 'a' in American English 'father', as is patah when not under a final
    HE, HET, or AYIN). Dictionaries usually list the two as separate vowels but
    render them identically. HOWEVER, some text publishers now distinguish these
    two vowels typographically (e.g., Revised Siddur Sim Shalom published by the
    Rabbinical Assembly). Perhaps there should be an alphabetic presentation
    form for qamats katan.

    The same comment goes for HEBREW POINT SHEVA [05B0]: in pronunciation it
    comes in two flavors, called sheva na ("moving sheva" -- pronounced
    something like the vowel segol) and sheva nakh ("resting sheva" -- silent).
    Again, most dictionaries list these as separate vowels but render them
    identically, while some publishers now distinguish them typographically
    (e.g., Tikkun Korim Simanim, published by Feldheim). Again, should there be
    an alphabetic presentation form for sheva na?

    With that, I'll leave off.

    Ted (not content with a focussed discussion)

    Ted Hopp, Ph.D.
    ZigZag, Inc.

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