Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav


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Nice try—but (alas) no nargillah

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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:

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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).

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How do Elohim and Yahweh differ?

Elohim was the name of God for the Israelite (northern) tribes.

IHVH was the name of the God of the Judeans (southern tribe).

Since both religions were based on the belief in a single, Creator, God, the two traditions were knitted into one when the refugees of the northern kingdom were absorbed into Judea following the destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians around 725 BCE, at the instruction of the Judean King Ezekiah.

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Why do many people from the UK dislike the term ‘British English’ just because they have their own regional dialect or accent?

You’re conflating accent with language.

British English is a legitimate term that refers to the use of English in Britain as opposed to the English used in, say, the U.S. or Australia. But that’s a language issue, not accent.

The term British accent is what causes Brits to roll their eyes, because it usually refers to what is called Received Pronunciation, and there are dozens other British accents.

What Brits really dislike is when software refer to British English as ‘British English’, and American English as ‘English’—as though English had been invented in America, and British English was just a derivative. Case in point:

 

(Originally written in reply to a question at Quora.com).


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How, when, and why did Hebrew abandon its original alphabet for square Aramaic?

To quote (loosely) from my own book on the topic, as far as we can tell, it happened in the late third century BCE, when the original Hebrew script was passed over in favor of the Aramaic script by the Sanhedrin (rabbinical assembly) as its script of choice for the biblical canon then being compiled and transcribed.

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Which top countries have their own alphabet but have transliteration problem in Latin characters?

I don’t know if Israel counts as a “top country” in this regard, but it does have a problem with transliteration of Hebrew into English (or in Roman characters in general).

Essentially, the problem is one of what is known in information theory as information loss: in the process of converting from Hebrew to English, information about the spelling of words (including the distinctions between letters that are essentially homophonic, such as ḥet and khaf, tet and tav, kaf and quf, samekh and sin, etc.) is lost, so if you were to try and convert back to Hebrew, you wouldn’t be able to reconstitute the original spelling—even if you were a native Hebrew speaker and recognised the words, as in the following example, from a poem of homophones titled Modern-day Ecclesiastes:

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