In light of his continued integration of SimHebrew in his system of Hebrew representation, I asked my friend Bob MacDonald if he found SimHebrew more amenable than phonetic or scholastic rendition in combination with Hebrew téamim (cantillation marks). In reply, he told me that there are several problems with it—e.g., the dots of the i could be confused with a revia mark—and of course, the font would cause problems for some technical environments.
He then followed this up with an interesting blog post on the topic, including his improvised method of representing téamim, and the issues of using the actual ones.
But in light of the SimHebrew approach of adapting standard ASCII characters instead of the traditional characters which require higher, double-byte Unicode encodings that are not available in many contexts (much like Square Hebrew itself), I wondered if it isn’t possible to use standard signs to stand in for the official téamim. This is something that has been at the back of my mind to check out at some point, so now was as good an opportunity as ever.
As I suspected, there is a plausible collection of graphically similar equivalents to virtually all the cantillation marks within the extended ASCII character set. Some—like the zarqa (~), or munaḥ legarmeh (|), are no-brainers—others (such as the acute accent for pashta, or ∞ for qarnei pharah) involve some artistic licence. This is a first stab at the idea, so subject to modifications or improvements. Also:
- Because of the difficulty of displaying the graphics of the cantillations, they are referred to by name, but can be seen in the Wikipedia article on Hebrew cantillations.
- With the exception of the acute and grave, circumflex accents, diaeresis and tilde, all of these marks can only be placed between letters, rather than above or below, as with traditional cantillations—but these can be stripped out easily when needed in a text editor by ‘zapping gremlins’.
- Keypresses are for the Mac keyboard. Windows or Linux users would have to use Unicode combinations.
- For the sake of simplicity, the cantillations are referred to by their Ashkenazi names only.
|:||zaqef qatan||zqf q’t:n||:|
|;||zaqef gadol||zqf q’t;n||;|
|∞||qarnei pharah||qrni pr∞h||opt-5|
|°||tlisha gdolah||°tliwa gdolh||opt-shift-8|
||||munaḥ legarmeh||munk lgrmh|||shift-\|
|¬||munaḥ||munk¬||opt-l (lowercase L)|
|˚||tlisha qtanah||tliwa q’tnh˚||opt-k|
|„||merkha kephulah||mrca cpul„h||opt-shift-w|
|˘||yeraḥ ben yomo||irk bn iom˘o||opt-shift-.|
|/||sof pasuq||sof psuq /||/|
This means that, in SimHebrew, it’s possible to convey a text such as this:
zrqa˜ sgolˆ mn¬k m¬nk rbiy◊i mhp›ç pw’tá zqf q’t:n zqf gd;ol mrc˛a tpk¸a atkntˇa pz˘r tliwa˚-q’tnh˚ °tliwa-°gdolh qdm´a vaz
la azla-grw grwii”m drg≤a t˛bir ‹itib psiq| mıtg sof-ps/uq wlw≥lt qrni-pr∞h mrca-cpul„h irkirk bn iom˘o.
It’s a very busy rendition, but not more than the actual cantillation signs, and the neat thing that it’s all doable on a standard (Mac) keyboard.
What do you think?