[b-hebrew] Hebrew transliteration

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Jan 19 16:31:06 EST 2004

On 19/01/2004 12:18, Trevor Peterson wrote:

>Peter wrote:
>>I was just looking at version 57 of a mapping file intended for 
>>converting text in just one legacy format into Unicode. This 
>>is 45 KB of 
>>code. I made the first draft of this more than three years ago, and 
>>several others have been working on it since. It should be released 
>>shortly, after going through more revisions, as part of a new 
>>version of 
>>the Ezra SIL package. This file is full of all kinds of mapping 
>>complexities because the legacy encoding had used different 
>>from Unicode. And this package doesn't even cover the most 
>>tricky issue, 
>>which is bidirectional ordering.
>Why does the conversion have to be done?
A good question, but there are a lot of answers, and different ones 
apply to different users:

1) SIL has made a strategic decisions (and a very necessary one 
considering its worldwide operations)to convert all its corporate data 
and processing to Unicode.

2) Data in legacy encodings needs to be communicated with the worldwide 
community of Hebrew users, most of whom are not using the SIL legacy 

3) A lot of the material is being prepared for publication on the web 
and on electronic media.

4) Microsoft and other software no longer supports proper rendering of 
legacy encoded complex scripts.

5) Material for archiving needs to be stored in formats which are 
guaranteed to be readable for the foreseeable future.

6) Some people want to get out of their own little corners and keep up 
with the modern world.

7) See below...

8) See below...

>Nope. I already pointed out that there are Israeli scholars working in the same field. I wasn't trying to discount the value of their work; but there are good scholars working in several languages in several countries in several scripts. Do the needs of exchanging information with them have anything to do with how I encode the BH that I use when I write?
Yes, if you are going to communicate with them by electronic means. 
Unless, of course, you think that Israeli scholars want to receive texts 
from you in Latin script transliteration. In any case, what they send to 
you will be in Unicode so you need to be able to read it.

> ...
>>that case we need to be able to communicate with them. A good 
>>start is 
>>to be able to read the Bible passages which they quote, and for which 
>>they will of course use the encoding that  everyone else in 
>>Israel uses.
>Which has nothing to do with anything when I read their work in print. It's only relevant if we're talking about direct electronic exchange. In such situations, we have to take whatever steps are necessary to communicate. But even if this were something I did regularly with Israeli scholars (right now, I don't), ...
You seem to be in touch with several on this list and the Aramaic list, 
although in English which is probably not their preference. I'm not 
suggesting we should use modern Hebrew on these lists, but it would make 
things easier for them I guess if we could use Hebrew script when we 
quote words from the biblical text.

>... there would be plenty of ways to achieve intelligibility. Sure, it might be easiest to use Unicode (and I can do that without any problem); but we could always exchange pdfs if no other solution presented itself.
Well, that would be a possible solution, but Unicode is much neater and 
easier, so why do you oppose it?

>>Plus, whether you like it or not, many non-Jewish biblical 
>>scholars are 
>>starting to use Unicode, so you need to be able to 
>>communicate with them.
>And I can, whether I use Unicode or not. The great part is that I also have the option of using Unicode if I choose. That has nothing to do with what I have to do in most of my writing.
Well, if it is convenient for you to use different systems...

What about if a scholar in Israel sends you a text in Unicode Hebrew and 
you want to include it in something you are writing not in Unicode? 
Either you will have to retype it, or that is use 7) for the conversion 
tools mentioned above.

>>Wouldn't it be a lot easier if we could just assume that everyone has 
>>the same standard Hebrew setup?
>It would if everyone could agree that Unicode meets all the needs we might have. Right now, not everyone does. Perhaps they never will. ...
Please can you be explicit this time. What needs do we have which, 
according to some people, Unicode does not meet? If there are such 
needs, I will do my best to get them added to Unicode. If people think 
there are needs not met but they are met, I want to educate them 
properly. Or is this a bit like saying that we shouldn't try to fly 
round the world because some people think it is flat?

>... In any event, there are plenty of other ways to get the job done. Why can't I consider Unicode one tool among others--useful when it's right for the job, irrelevant when it's not?
Do what you like, Trevor, in private. Just don't expect the rest of us 
to pick up the pieces later. Those papers you are writing in legacy 
encoding for a print-only journal. What if in a few years some 
e-journal, or some print journal which is fully computerised, wants to 
take your paper and republish it? You might fiind you have to retype the 
whole thing. Don't expect others to do that for you - although you might 
just want my conversion software, use 8).

>Have you looked at what real typesetting applications like TeX can do in this respect? Proponents would usually argue the other way, saying that Unicode can't produce the same quality output.

That's not a Unicode problem, rather a problem that there is not yet 
good Unicode-compatible typesetting software. But I thought there was a 
Unicode version of TeX now; no reason for that to produce worse Hebrew 
output than the legacy one.

>I won't rehash the arguments against WYSIWYG word processing here. It shouldn't be hard to find them using Google.
One of the first few it comes up with is 

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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