Biblical Hebrew Transcription (was: Jeremiah 23:2)

Paul Zellmer zellmer at
Thu Sep 17 07:59:16 EDT 1998


(Note: I sent this out almost 24 hours ago, but it still hasn't shown up
on the list.  I guess it's lost in cyber-space!  So my apologies for a
repeat message.  Paul.)

After the short discussion this past weekend about the transcription
scheme for the list, I would like to propose the following.  Because it
is based on Ben's scheme, perhaps we can call what results after all the

comments end and the dust settles a "Modified Crick Transcription

I do have some problems with Ben's scheme in an unmodified form, because

it has some ambiguities built into it and because it assumes that the
transcriber is familiar with pronunciation rules (e.g., which shewa is
voice and which is silent, which dagesh is lene and which is forte).
Especially this last concern causes the scheme to be somewhat unfriendly

to newcomers to Biblical Hebrew.  We don't want them to keep from asking

a question because they are afraid that they will not identify a dagesh
or shewa correctly, do we?  So here's my proposal.  I'll try to explain
some of the rationale afterwards.

Consonants          Vowels
(Capitalized)       (lower case)

Aleph    '          Patah        a
Beth     B          Qamets       @
Gimel    G          Segol        e
Daleth   D          Tsere        " or "Y [plene]
Heh      H          Hireq        i or iY [plene]
Vav(waw) W          Holem        o or oW [plene]
Zayin    Z          Qamets Hatuf @
Cheth    Ch         Qibbuts      u
Teth     U          Shureq       W.
Yod      Y          Shewa        :
Kaph     K          Hatef Patah  :a
Lamedh   L          Hatef Segol  :e
Mem      M          Hatef Qamets :@
Nun      N
Samek    S
Peh      P          Miscellaneous
Ayin     `
Tsade    Ts         Ketiv        *
Qoph     Q          Qere         **
Resh     R          Dagesh       .
Sin      &          Meqqeph       -
Shin     $
Tav      T

I personally see no problem with the use of digraphs for some of the
consonants as long as the second letter is lower case.  Even those of us

who want to build macros to return these texts to Hebrew characters
should be able to deal with them.  I suggested U for Teth because it's a

"look-alike".  Several posters in the past seem to have used the & and $

comfortably, and they do allow the distinguishing of the sibilants.  For

qamets, I'm suggesting @, since it sort of looks like both an "a" and an

"o". The " was retained for sere, since it sort of looks like two dots.

Since almost none of our postings need to have the pauses marked, I'm
suggesting that we retain the colon as the mark of the shewa.  This
allows even the newcomers to the language to post with confidence.  For
a similar reason, I am suggesting we retain the period as the mark of
the dagesh.  The closer we keep the transcription to what is explicitly
found in the text, the less we will have problems with different
pronunciation schemes.  Also, I realize most of us would not have any
problem with soft BGDKPT being indicated by a lower-case h as the second

part of a digraph, but a neophyte might not know that an extra letter is

needed.  Also, "h" to me is a sign of breathiness, and, if my
understanding of the soft forms is correct, they are actually
fricatives, right?

I think that Ben's basic structure is more intuitive, at least to the
English speaker.  I propose this scheme with modifications because I
feel it keeps the intuitiveness while allowing for better
specification.  Please send all responses to the list so that all of us
are involved in the hoped-for agreement.


Paul and Dee Zellmer, Jimmy Guingab, Geoffrey Beltran
Ibanag Translation Project
Cabagan, Philippines

zellmer at

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