Nice try—but (alas) no nargillah


Liron Lavi Turkenich is a young and engaging Israeli graphic designer with a commendable idea: bridge the cultural gap between Israel’s Hebrew speakers and its Arab population by creating a ‘hybrid’ font set comprising characters that are half Hebrew, half Arabic:


Fig. 1: A blend of the Hebrew and Arabic words for “language”, in the “Aravrit” font. Unfortunately, it looks nothing like the Arabic word, and most resembles the Hebrew word שנאה (sin’ah) = ‘hate’

I read briefly about this font (cleverly dubbed Aravrit—a play on the Hebrew words aravit and ivrit, i.e., ‘Arabic’ and ‘Hebrew’) a few months ago, and even adopted the first combined word that you see in the video (which allegedly depicts the word ‘language’ in both Hebrew and in Arabic) in my latest talk, about ‘Arabic Hebrew‘ (see Fig. 1).

While Lavi is to be congratulated for her initiative to form a bridge between the two cultures, she commits the typical, and surprising, error of using the forms of the Arabic characters in their ‘standalone’, or ‘end-of-word’ form, as depicted on the Arabic keyboard—rather than as they are actually appear in the middle or start of a word. (Most Arabic letters have three distinct forms: when they start a word or appear after a ‘non-linking’ letter; when they are linked to the previous letter; and when they are the last letter in the word or name.)

1170601_aravrit_pulloutTypical—because this error is commonly made by anyone who has never properly learned to read or write Arabic (I spoke about a similar faux pas in an episode of The Good Wife a while back—see The Good Wife, the poor Arabic).

Surprising—because you would think that one of Lavi’s tutors or mentors would have pointed out this error to her, somewhere along the line.

In the above example, the actual word for language in Arabic is لغه (pron. lugha)— which, as you can see, is very different from the standalone-letters-form that she uses (ل غ ه ). So (contrary to her claims in her promotional video) it is unlikely that Arabic-speakers on whom she test-marketed her propoal would readily recognise the hybrid words she creates—or at the very least, they would point out her mistaken approach.

A second objection I would have to her approach is that her character set consists of no fewer than 638 new hybrid ‘characters’. The whole advantage of the original Hebrew/Canaanite script invented around 1900 BCE was that it comprised only 22 characters that anyone can master—the world’s first true alphabet—instead of the hundreds (and later, thousands) of characters in Egyptian hieroglyphics, in Sumerian cuneiform, and in the Linear Greek scripts, that only select classes of scribes knew how to use, after many years of training. Expanding the character set to several hundred therefore defeats the original purpose of the original alphabet, and constitutes a giant step backwards.

Kudos for the intention, though.

For more on Lavi’s Aravrit font, see today’s Times of Israel article about it.


1 thought on “Nice try—but (alas) no nargillah

  1. Pingback: Nice try—but (alas) no nargillah — Notes by Autumn Light @orrstav | Talmidimblogging

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