Biblical Hebrew Transcription (was: Jeremiah 23:2)

Paul Zellmer zellmer at
Wed Sep 23 10:28:22 EDT 1998

Jonathan Robie wrote (on the Virginia list!):

> At 01:42 PM 9/19/98 -0700, Dale M. Wheeler wrote:
> >I'll put in my $0.02 worth of agreement for what Kirk said.  I've never
> >really had any problem with informal schemes, as long as the person using
> >them has some basic knowledge of Hebrew/Aramaic, and the eBHS format has
> >become very natural for me took a while though in the areas Kirk
> >mentioned.
> How would people feel about doing the following:
> 1. Choose any one transliteration scheme and document it on the B-Hebrew
> home page.
> 2. State that this is not the One True Transliteration scheme, and we're
> perfectly willing to read whatever you type in.
> 3. Request that people not just dump whatever their program uses to encode
> hebrew into their emails, but try to type something intelligible.
> That would correspond with what we do on B-Greek.
> Jonathan
> jonathan at
> Texcel Research

Jonathan, et. al.,

My server lost its dedicated data line for several days, so various responses
that I had prepared did not go out over the weekend.  But it was no great
loss, since the conversation continued.

I was very much aware that the scheme I last posted was very close to the
"Michigan" scheme.  (BTW, Kirk, the "quamets" distinction you ascribed to me
was a distinction made the last time you posted the scheme.  I simply retyped
the applicable portion in my post a couple weeks ago.)  I recognize that we
need a scheme, if only to respond to the requests that come about every other

Echoing Peter's line of thought, even if we maintain the modified-Michigan
scheme, we should remove from its "selling points" the fact that it is
"cut-and-paste" capable.  Kirk, I do a lot of work with the Hebrew text, but
my Logos BHS encoding doesn't look like the M-C-W in the least.  I suspect
that is the same with most other BHS programs used by list members.  If this
scheme allows *you* to cut-and-paste, good.  The rest of us have to type it in
character-by-character.  But we do this in other forums, like b-greek, so it's
not a big deal.

Jonathan, my big concern for maintaining the scheme has been an observation
made in the past.  The scheme gets posted; it gets used by a couple posts; and
then the entire list starts "talking around" the hebrew text rather than
quoting it.  They give a translation of the word, or they generalize the
question, or they do anything *but* replicate the hebrew.  I know of no poll
to explain this phenomenon, but I suspect that others feel the way I do that
the transcription is too far from what we learned in "baby hebrew," that it is
too much work to mentally "untranscribe."  (Read that, it doesn't seem
*intuitive*, although, in reality, it should be.  All it is is a new "aleph
beth"!)  So I took your past question and used it as a springboard to float
the possibility of a new scheme.

I fully agree that we need a scheme.  If the M-C-W is maintained, then it's
use should be strongly encouraged.  This is just like the transcription of the
greek text under consideration is expected to be included in the initial posts
of threads under b-greek.  If another scheme is developed, then I respectfully
disagree with Kirk on the necessity for newcomers to learn M-C-W.  Were it not
for b-hebrew, I, for one, would live and work quite nicely without ever being
exposed to that scheme.

Until another scheme is adopted, I will probably capitalize the consonants and
use lower case for the vowels.  Unless I can see where inclusion clarifies a
word, I will probably omit dageshes (doubling the letters, where appropriate)
as well as marks of "soft" BGDKPT.  I will also probably omit the silent
shewa, using ":" for the vocal shewa.  And (groan) I will use "f" for qamets.
Oh, and I will work to make sense of other people's postings, whatever scheme
they use.


P.S. Jonathan, shame on you for sending a message to the virginia list after
your strong efforts to get everyone to move to the list in the Tar Heel state!

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

zellmer at

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