[b-hebrew] Unicode Holam proposals

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Sat Jul 31 19:14:31 EDT 2004

Please excuse the cross posting of an announcement which is relevant to 
members of several groups (and a few individuals receiving blind copies).

I have submitted to the Unicode Technical Committee, in the name of a 
small group of Hebrew experts, a new proposal for solving the long 
standing problem of distinguishing between Holam Male (full Holem) and 
Vav Haluma (consonantal Waw with defective Holem) in Unicode Hebrew 
texts. You may read this proposal (which is much shorter than the old 
proposal submitted in June) at 
http://www.qaya.org/academic/hebrew/Holam3.pdf, or ...Holam3.html. This 
proposal is based on using the ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER character to 
distinguish between Holam Male and Vav Haluma. This proposal was based 
on the consensus preference of a number of experts in ancient and modern 
Hebrew who contributed to the discussion.

An alternative proposal has been submitted by Michael Everson, a 
generalist script expert and Indo-Europeanist with little knowledge of 
Hebrew, and Mark Shoulson, an American Jew. This alternative proposal 
(which should soon be available at 
http://www.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n2840.pdf but is not what you 
currently get when you go to that URL) is for a new character for use as 
Holam Haser (defective Holem) only when used with Vav. This proposal is, 
in my opinion, based on clear misunderstandings of how the Hebrew script 

The Hebrew experts involved in the discussions have clearly rejected the 
principle of encoding a new character for a variant Holam. Nevertheless, 
some influential people in the Unicode Consortium seem determined to 
impose on Hebrew script users a new character which they do not want. 
The alternative may not be rendered precisely correctly with some older 
rendering engines (but in practice probably can be by any engine which 
can handle right-to-left script), but it is based clearly on how the 
Hebrew script works.

I invite all interested parties, especially regular users of Hebrew 
script, to make comments on the proposal I have submitted, and on the 
alternative proposal if they are able to find it. Comments should be 
made directly to the Unicode Consortium via 
http://www.unicode.org/reporting.html, or by e-mail to 
human3 at unicode.org. They should be made before the Unicode Technical 
Committee meeting which starts on 10th August. I will be happy to 
receive copies of any comments.

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

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