Re: Hebrew Vav Holam

From: Ted Hopp (
Date: Thu Jul 31 2003 - 17:28:04 EDT

  • Next message: John Cowan: "Re: Hebrew Vav Holam"

    On Thursday, July 31, 2003 4:58 PM, John Hudson wrote:
    > At 01:18 PM 7/31/2003, Ted Hopp wrote:
    > >There are exactly two Hebrew vowels that are spacing glyphs: holam male
    > >shuruq. Neither one is encoded in Unicode. Neither one is a Hebrew letter
    > >(in the traditional sense) nor is either a combining mark. I thought some
    > >new nomenclature was in order. Since there are general category Lo code
    > >points with names like LAO VOWEL SIGN AA [0EB0], I went with that. (Maybe
    > >shouldn't have dropped the "SIGN".)
    > >
    > >It seems wrong to be calling a base character a HEBREW MARK. It also
    seems a
    > >little odd to be calling a Hebrew vowel a HEBREW LETTER when every other
    > >HEBREW LETTER is a consonant. But if that's what convention requires....
    > Weingreen, _A practical grammar for classical Hebrew_ (2nd ed., Oxford,
    > 1959, pp.6-7) records yod, vav and he sometimes being used for common
    > prior to the development of the point system, in addition to their usual
    > consonantal role:
    > he = short a
    > yod = short e and short i
    > vav = short u and short o
    > Weingreen uses the term 'vowel-letters'.
    > My Hebrew knowledge is nowhere near good enough to judge the accuracy of
    > Weingreen's explanation nor terminology on this issue.

    Yes, I did overstate things a bit there.

    Weingreen is right, but "vowel-letters" isn't standard terminology that I
    know of. Those vowel-letters continue to be used even with pointing. Today,
    the combination of a hiriq followed by a yod (with no vowel) is called a
    hiriq male; a tsere-yod is called tsere male. Vav as a short u is called
    shuruq and as a short o is called holam male. There's no special name that I
    know of for a patah-he combination used for a short a (which only occurs at
    the end of a word, by the way). I believe alef and possibly ayin are also
    sometimes used to indicate vowels in unpointed Hebrew (certainly in

    The only one that brings typographic problems is holam male. I suppose one
    could think of hiriq-yod, tsere-yod, and patah-he as individual vowels that
    are both combining and spacing glyphs. I wasn't, though.


    Ted Hopp, Ph.D.
    ZigZag, Inc.

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