FW: Biblical Hebrew Unicode font (was Re: OTA BHS Conversion)

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Wed Oct 18 06:36:25 EDT 2000

My SIL colleague Bob Hallissy asked me to send the following to the list, in
response to the issues which John Richards raised.

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Hallissy [mailto:bob_hallissy at sil.org]
Sent: 17 October 2000 14:00
To: peter_kirk at sil.org
Cc: jim-anne_henderson at sil.org; jhr at universalist.worldonline.co.uk;
b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu; peter_constable at sil.org;
joan_wardell at sil.org; alan_conner at sil.org
Subject: Biblical Hebrew Unicode font (was Re: OTA BHS Conversion)

       Peter Kirk wrote:

          Now I know that there are tools available to develop a
          Hebrew font with full support for placing the vowels and

          cantillation marks according to context. The technology is
          called OpenType and Microsoft's implementation of it is
          called Uniscribe (Details from www.microsoft.com/typography
          - I haven't visited there myself.), and there is a tool for
          font developers called Visual OpenType Layout Tool (VOLT) at
          least in beta test.

       VOLT was officially released this past summer. In fact version
       1.1 is due out this week.

       >But what I don't know is, has anyone made a Hebrew font which
       follows these definitions and supports full cantillation? Or
       does anyone know of one which is available?

       I've just posted this question to the VOLT discussion forum and
       will let y'all know if I get some answers.

       >If not, there is an important task which can now be done,
       which will allow full support of the Biblical Hebrew text
       according to international standards, at least on the Microsoft
       platform and in principle also on other platforms.

       Yes, I think a Biblical Hebrew Unicode font can be done now.
       From SIL's perspective, I think a reasonable starting place
       would be the SIL Ezra font. But there are some issues to be
       wrestled with that make this a larger undertaking than one
       might otherwise expect. Last July, Peter Constable noted the

          First, there's the question of whether Ezra uses any Hebrew
          characters not supported in Unicode. For example, Ezra has a
          backwards nun that's not in Unicode. I'm not sure what this
          is used for, so don't know *how* it should be encoded in
          Unicode; I also don't know how often it's used - maybe it's
          not important. There are also some cantillation marks in
          Ezra that I can't find equivalents for in Unicode, but I
          don't know if I'm simply being thrown off by name and glyph

          Secondly, we need to bear in mind that the Ezra encoding is
          designed to support Roman transliteration as well. This
          means that it makes some character distinctions that aren't
          made in Unicode. For example, qamets-a from qamets-o (one
          Hebrew character with two Romanisations); also, shewa and
          silent shewa. There are some other issues of this sort as


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