Re: Umlaut and Tréma, was: Variation selectors and vowel marks

From: busmanus (
Date: Sat Jul 24 2004 - 11:47:01 CDT

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    Peter Kirk wrote:

    > I am not actually asking for variation selectors with combining marks
    > because I realise that the UTC has already made a decision and is
    > unlikely to reverse it. But I am asking for some flexibility on some of
    > the principles, of the kind which has been demonstrated with umlaut and
    > tréma, and also in the Indic scripts proposal under review, in order to
    > find an acceptable solution to a real problem. That flexibility might
    > include allowing either <VAV, variation selector, HOLAM> or <VAV, ZWJ,
    > HOLAM> to represent Holam Male although technically the VAV glyph does
    > not (usually) change (nor does the HOLAM glyph) and the HOLAM dot does
    > not ligate with the it, just moves relative to it.

    I had a look at Peter Kirk's proposal

    about the Holam Male vs. Vav Haluma problem, and I find it hard to
    understand why such complicated treatment should be preferred to simply
    mirroring the semantic structure of Hebrew writing. Let me quote from
    the proposal:

    "The Hebrew point HOLAM combines in two different ways with the Hebrew
    letter VAV. In the first combination, known as Holam Male, the VAV is
    not pronounced as a consonant, and HOLAM and VAV together serve as the
    vowel associated with the preceding consonant. In the second
    combination, known as Vav Haluma, the HOLAM is the vowel of a
    consonantal VAV."

    This clearly implies that the underlying logical order of the characters
    is different in the two cases, viz.

    Holam Male means: Previous Consonant+Holam+Vav(+whatever follows)
    Vav Haluma means: (whatever's preceding+)Vav+Holam

    In other words, in the case of Holam Male, the Holam semantically
    combines not with the Vav, but with the consonant preceding the Vav.
    Now, is there any rule in Unicode that would require the sequences

    Holam+Vav and

    to be treated as canonical equivalents? If there isn't, then it would
    actually be a disservice to Hebrew users if the Unicode Consortorium
    standardized on an encoding (like <ZWJ, VAV, HOLAM>, mentioned in the
    proposal) that contradicts the underlying semantics, and thereby making
    the straightforward solution deprecated. If any explicit official
    recommendation is necessary at all, it should definitely be in
    favour of the Holam+Vav vs. Vav+Holam scheme, once it's technically

    In one of his mailings, Peter Kirk also mentions the "false Holam Male",
    occurring in God's name. I presume that an attempt to distinuish this
    particular case from instances of "true Holam Male" may have been one of
    his concerns when preparing the proposal. But if it indeed was the
    case, then the special treatment should be proposed for the the special
    case (the "false" one), rather than for instances of standard
    usage, paralleling the behaviour of other vowel points in a similar
    situation. And anyway, in the Tetragrammaton (God's name), the Vav
    following the Holam has a vowel point of its own (a Qamats), which would
    be impossible, had it been a "mother of reading", as after a "true Holam
    Male". This is something visible for the computer, too, so if someone
    wants to e.g. display such instances of the Holam differently from other
    instances of Holam Male, he can simply use this circumstance for
    identifying the relevant places programmatically.



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