[b-hebrew] Unicode Hebrew proposal: underlying issues

Elaine Keown elaine_keown at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 30 09:47:46 EDT 2003

         Elaine Keown
         Bryan, Texas
         979 774 0202


As some of you know, I am finally going to write a
second Unicode Hebrew proposal.  I wrote a small
Unicode proposal last fall.  

I will be submitting all the characters listed in the
back of my publication, "Hebrew alphabets, symbols,
and computer codes," REJ Jan/Jun 2002, that is, the
remaining Tiberian items, epigraphic pointing, and the
other pointing systems (Babylonian, etc) [n.b.--this
publication contains some errors, e.g., I never had
any affiliation with any group at UPenn].  

Because Unicode outlawed them, I will *not* be
submitting the digraphs for Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Tajik,
Karaim, Judeo-Persian and so forth.  I finally decided
that there were too many battles to fight, I couldn't
fight all them all.  I will ask that Unicode list the
digraphs in its documentation, so that font
manufacturers may support them.  

There are several background or underlying problems in
this work:
1) There is no standard core list of Hebrew and
Aramaic materials which we could reasonably expect a
supposedly perfect, eternal and universal computer
code to "support."  

Therefore, it is hard to produce a list of important
letter variants, e.g., the kind of variants listed by
Yeivin in his remarks on the 25 or so important early
mss (Intro to the Tiberian Masorah, Revell trans). 
Unicode now allows variants for letters in historic
2) There are now 3 standards bodies involved in this
process, not just the UTC.  So earlier errors in the
descriptions of certain items, although incorrect,
have been guaranteed to remain incorrect because of
Unicode's agreements with the IETF and the W3.  

Although Unicode changed Coptic last year--the Coptic
patriarch asked them to--it's not likely that they
will correct earlier errors in the descriptions of
Hebrew pointing.  However, one can pray for miracles. 

3) I will be suggesting that all 3,200 years or so of
Hebrew writing should be "unified," that is, that the
various letterforms should be treated as font
variants.  This is how Chinese was handled.  However,
the current Unicode Roadmap, their description of
future additions to Unicode, has designed Aramaic and
Hebrew to be divided into other writing systems, e.g.,
Samaritan, Palmyrene, whatever. 

So the proposal will also have to deal with that
politicized issue.

Elaine K.

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