Re: The display of *kholam* on PCs

From: Dean Snyder (
Date: Wed Mar 05 2003 - 16:11:08 EST

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    Chris Jacobs wrote at 7:27 PM on Wednesday, March 5, 2003:

    >> Chris Jacobs wrote at 12:54 AM on Wednesday, March 5, 2003:
    >> >But why do you call the kholam a "high left dot"?
    >> >
    >> >As far as I know it can appear high left or middle, to indicate that it
    >> >should be pronounced after the consonant, or right, to pronounce it
    >> >So the meaning of a shin with two dots above it is ambiguous,
    >> In classical Hebrew KHOLEM always represents a trailing vowel, i.e. it is
    >> always pronounced after the consonant over which it is written. [In fact
    >> I can't think of ANY vowel sign in classical Hebrew which represents a
    >> pronunciation that precedes the consonant to which it is associated,
    >> ignoring, for obvious reasons, written/read (kethib/qere) orthographies,
    >> where the vowels indicate what is to be read in spite of the consonants
    >> that are written.] And so the graphemic sequence SHIN KHOLEM is never
    >> ambiguous in classical Hebrew. (I don't know about modern Israeli Hebrew.)
    >"When holem precedes ?, the point is placed on the
    >upper right of the letter, as with ?????? (yo'ma<caron>r).
    >When it follows the ?, the point is placed on the
    >upper left, as in ????? ('obhedh). When holem precedes
    >??, the points coincide, as with ?????? (mos<caron>e<caron>l).
    >When holem follows ??, the points again coincide as
    >with ?????? (sot?en). The letter ??? will be "s<caron>o" to
    >commence a syllabe, e.g., ?????? (s<caron>oma<caron>'), and "os" in
    >other places."
    >[ R.K. Harrison, Teach Yourself Biblical Hebrew ]

    The case of (written) Yo'MaR is not an exception. The pronunciation is
    "yomar", the aleph not being pronounced; and therefore the KHOLEM is
    written after the consonant which directly precedes it in pronunciation.

    In the examples 'oBeD, MoSHeL, and SoTeN the KHOLEM, as expected, follows
    in pronunciation the letter with which it is associated.

    I can't make out the transcription "The letter ??? will be "s<caron>o" to
    commence a syllabe, e.g., ?????? (s<caron>oma<caron>'), and "os" in other places."
    and I don't have Harrison's grammar at work to check the reading; but it
    sounds like an explanation of how SHIN + KHOLEM are written, which has
    already been discussed.

    >In the Bagster Polyglot Bible, Hebrew-English Old Testament, translation
    >Everard van der Hooght,
    >Genesis 1.3 "weyyomer elohiem" "And God said"
    >the holem is clearly above the aleph, not above the yod.

    Same response given for YoMaR above.

    >I see in fact _another_ example of a holem to the right, which Harrison
    >did not mention:
    >the holem in "elohiem" is above the he, not above the lamed.

    Due to innate complexity there is variation in Hebrew pointing in
    manuscripts and printed editions, even leaving aside for the moment
    discussion of the various Hebrew pointing traditions themselves. But,
    although KHOLEM following LAMED is indeed orthographically a somewhat
    special case (due to the fact that LAMED is the only Hebrew character to
    extend above the scribal line and the extension is precisely from the
    upper left corner of the glyph where you "want" to place the KHOLEM), I
    have nevertheless always seen it written between the LAMED and the
    following glyph but closer to the LAMED. This is certainly how it is
    taught and printed these days.

    I don't have my Bagster here at work but I would suspect if you looked
    closely, the location of the KHOLEM would be as I have suggested. If not
    I suspect this is idiosyncratic to works printed on that press.

    [I did however misspeak technically when I said "after the consonant OVER
    which it is written". The KHOLEM pronounced after LAMED is indeed written
    OVER the scribal line, but is written directly AFTER the LAMED.]

    >> About the only "unusual" orthographic phenomenon I can think of related
    >> to KHOLEM is that when it occurs after SIN it "shares the same dot"
    >with SIN.
    >And if those dots were above different letters there were no reason why
    >they should share.

    I must be missing your point here; this seems to support what I was saying.

    But I'm surprised that no one has provided the one possible
    counterexample to my statement about no vowel preceding its consonant (an
    example I completely forgot about when writing my former post) - furtive
    pathach (as in the second a-vowel in SaMeaKH).

    Depending on your linguistic persuasion you might argue that the PATAKH
    here is a vowel glide, both written and pronounced, which is merely
    "extending" a non-a-vowel before guttural consonants in certain phonemic
    contexts. Or you might want to posit that it is the only example of a
    syllable in classical Hebrew beginning with a vowel - or an unwritten

    Probably more than we need to know about the originally posted problem,
    but I have a feeling that readers of this list enjoy, like I do,
    discussion of these orthographic quirks of the world's writing systems.


    Dean A. Snyder
    Scholarly Technology Specialist
    Center For Scholarly Resources, Sheridan Libraries
    Garrett Room, MSE Library, 3400 N. Charles St.
    The Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218

    office: 410 516-6850 mobile: 410 245-7168 fax: 410-516-6229
    Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project:
    Manager, Initiative for Cuneiform Encoding:

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