[b-hebrew] Hebrew transliteration

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Mon Jan 19 18:20:20 EST 2004

On 19/01/2004 14:36, Trevor Peterson wrote:

> ...
>>3) A lot of the material is being prepared for publication on the web 
>>and on electronic media.
>Even "electronic media" varies. Pdfs are still a general standard of
>information exchange, and it doesn't make much difference how they're
>produced. I've already acknowledged the distinct position of Web work.
It is "web work" which I am talking about, plus data which is being sent 
out on CDs. Some of this is fixed format material for which PDFs 
suitable, but a lot of it is more dynamic, hyperlinked, searchable etc 
etc for which PDF is not suitable. And a lot of it is data for SIL's 
proprietary programs, which are not necessarily for in-house use only.

>>4) Microsoft and other software no longer supports proper 
>>rendering of 
>>legacy encoded complex scripts.
>How so? If I paste from BibleWorks (a rather old version) into Word XP,
>it looks the same as it ever did.
In Word XP, probably at the moment but no guarantees that it always 
will. But it probably won't look right in Internet Explorer, which 
doesn't support diacritics at code points which should not be diacritics.

>>5) Material for archiving needs to be stored in formats which are 
>>guaranteed to be readable for the foreseeable future.
>Do you seriously think that material stored with a legacy font (assuming
>that the font files are also stored) is not going to be readable in the
>foreseeable future? Particularly since most of them have readily
>decipherable correspondences, even without the font files, it wouldn't
>be hard to recover the information.
I'm not an expert on archiving, but I am assured that this is 
potentially a serious problem, especially when you have an archive with 
hundreds of languages and potentially many encodings of each. That 
archiving is a real problem is shown in that there is a large team 
involved in retyping Bibles for SIL which were printed in the 60's and 
70's but for which there is no longer any usable computer-readable form.

> ...
>>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.
>I presume they're willing to work with whatever conventions are current.
>And yes, Roman transcription is still current in scholarship. Besides,
>it's hardly limited to that. Case in point--an American writing a
>dissertation in Scotland with an advisor in Israel. He does his work in
>LaTeX, e-mails back and forth using transcription where necessary, ...
But what if the adviser wants him to use proper Hebrew in his e-mails? 
I'm sure he or she, the Israeli, would prefer it to any transcription.

>... sends
>his written sections as pdfs, which the advisor prints, marks up with a
>pen, and mails back. (Not that he would have to, but a lot of scholars
>still prefer to work with hard copy when doing that type of thing.)
What if the adviser prefers to make comments using his computer on a 
machine-readable version of the text? If you insist on PDF you are not 
giving him or her the choice.


>>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.
>Do you think they're less competent in Roman transcription than we are
>in Hebrew script?
Probably not, but I think we might be upset if they insisted on writing 
English words in Hebrew characters just because they can't be bothered 
to use software which supports English as well as Hebrew.

>> ...
>>Well, that would be a possible solution, but Unicode is much 
>>neater and 
>>easier, so why do you oppose it?
>In a lot of cases, pdf allows people to use whatever applications they
>like and easily produce an output that anyone can read. I personally
>don't like MS-Word for political reasons. ...

>... Granted, I'm comfortable
>producing an e-mail in Unicode or a plain text file, but to a lot of
>people information exchange means sending a Word doc (because everyone
>uses it, and it's the standard, you know). Let me give you an example of
>how this sort of thing works. I work as a very small cog in one of the
>largest public research funding machines in the U.S., perhaps in the
>world. When applications are reviewed by peer scientists, the results
>are published as a pdf summary. The reviewers may submit their critiques
>as Word docs or as plain text files. The interface will allow them to
>use Unicode Greek symbols in Word docs, but it will only take ASCII
>encoded plain text. (Personally, I think the plain text option is just
>so they can't be accused of requiring reviewers to use Word. They don't
>really expect anyone to do anything with it.) Similarly, I think most
>end users, given the choice, would transfer information as an attached
>Word doc. ...
Well, you can produce Word docs with OpenOffice, complete with Unicode 
text. To be recommended perhaps only when Word format is required.

>... Providing pdf as an option allows them to continue using the
>only word processor they know and easily produce media that others can
>handle. Aside from e-mail (and even then, most people use html by
>default), I don't think most people know what to do with plain text. Pdf
>is a natural quick output that allows everyone to use their preferred
>method for producing documents.
>>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 
>>tools mentioned above.
>What kind of text do you suppose this scholar is sending me? An
>inscription that no one has seen before? ...
Or a MS, or whatever. Or a draft of a paper she has written, in English 
but quoting lots of Hebrew words. Or something she found on the 
Internet. Or all sorts of things.

>... Unless we're talking about
>quoting Israeli Hebrew (which isn't even the issue here), whatever is
>sent will probably be published material that I can get from other
>sources. ...
Maybe. But then you probably still have to retype it.

>... For this reason, people rarely send whole texts to begin with.
>You just assume the other person has access to it (and in most cases,
>you're right).
Don't assume I have access to anything. I'm a long way from good 
libraries :-(

>> ...
>>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?
>Only if you think communication is an individual enterprise. ...
Absolutely not. I don't want the people who think the earth is flat to 
be left out, I want to persuade them to travel with me and the community 
at large. But if in the end they are not persuaded and won't get on the 
plane with me and the rest, that is their privilege as adults, but I 
don't see that I and everyone else should stay at home just because they 
choose to.

>... For myself
>personally, the issue would be mostly that there are good resources
>available that do not work with Unicode. It's nothing you can add to
>Unicode. It's a question of software development. (And with the
>particular example I have in mind, the developers have already concluded
>that Unicode doesn't meet all their needs, even those who originally set
>out to make the software work with Unicode.) ...
Be specific. The developers at Microsoft? At OpenOffice? At Mozilla? 
Certainly none of them. All the major software companies are moving to 
Unicode as fast as they can. If some small outfit has decided to give up 
the race, it will sadly be a matter of the weakest to the wall.

>... But my argument here was
>not that there are problems--only that people perceive there to be
>problems. And if they don't think Unicode meets their needs, they're not
>going to use it, ...
This is precisely why I am putting so much effort into telling you and 
this list that Unicode DOES meet your needs. I am hoping that you 
intelligent people are able to judge what the situation really is and 
that Unicode is the best way for as many people as possible to communicate.

>... and if they're not going to use it, communicating with
>them still requires using other methods. You can fly around the world on
>your own. But I hope you don't really think communication is a
>unilateral thing. Maybe you can write off the people who don't play
>along, but don't fuss when Microsoft does the same thing.
>>But I thought 
>>there was a 
>>Unicode version of TeX now; no reason for that to produce 
>>worse Hebrew 
>>output than the legacy one.
>Actually, the group that's developing Omega/Lambda is what I was talking
>about above. They set out to produce a Unicode version, but they've
>decided that Unicode won't meet all their needs.
Then they have committed organisational suicide. As is also clear from 
the disarray at http://omega.enstb.org/, which can't serve legal HTML 
pages, and the death of http://omega.cse.unsw.edu.au/. That is, if you 
mean that they are using something different from Unicode.

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

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