Re: Hebrew: Question about cantillation marks

From: Mark E. Shoulson (
Date: Fri Jun 27 2008 - 06:40:49 CDT

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    Karl Pentzlin wrote:

    > The attached text picture is scanned from an edition of the Hebrew
    > bible text (Rita Maria Steurer, Das Alte Testament Band I,
    > Neuhausen-Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-7751-1281-2, p.3; Genesis 1,1).
    > Apparently cantillation marks are used. I presume that the characters
    > encircled in red are glyph variants of U+05A8, U+05A5, U+05AD.
    > Is this assumption correct?
    Not quite. U+05A5 is indeed used, but not U+05AD; this selection is
    from Genesis, and U+05AD is only used in Psalms, Job, and Proverbs
    (those three books have a different cantillation system than the
    others). That one is really U+0596. The mark on "Tohu" is properly
    U+0599 and not U+05A8, but therein lies a bit of controversy. U+0599
    goes on the left edge of the leftmost (last) letter of the word, no
    matter where the stress is, whereas most other cantillations go on the
    stressed syllable. It has become common, since the days of the early
    MSS, to write an auxiliary mark on the stressed syllable in such a case,
    if it is not the last syllable, to indicate where the stress goes. Is
    that extra sign also U+0599? Should it use OpenType magic or something
    in order to position it a little differently? Or should it be U+05A8?
    Or a new character altogether? Note also that with the advent of
    printing, it became common to do the same thing (printing an auxiliary
    sign) with other cantillations whose position does not depend on the
    stress (U+0592, U+05A0, U+05AE, U+05A9).

    My opinion: just use the characters as they currently are, and let font
    magic position them better.

    > - Karl Pentzlin
    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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