Typically, it doesn’t: by and large, there is just one way to spell any given word. There are three types of exception, though:
Tag Archives: information loss
Q&A: In Hebrew, how do you differentiate between vav (ו) and bet (ב); tav (ת) and tet (ט); alef (א) and ayin (ע) and hei (ה)? Why don’t we change the spelling of some words if the pronunciations are now the same to simplify spelling?
Here’s a thought: how about we get rid of colours, so our sight is ‘simplified’ to just black-and-white?
I don’t understand the obsession that so people have about simplifying spelling (in all languages). Spelling is a vital link to our past—if you iron out differences just so similar-sounding consonants are spelled the same, you lose key information about the roots of the words and how they relate to each other.
Q&A: 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:
Modern-day Ecclesiastes is a poem to illustrate how the spelling distinctions between homophones in modern Hebrew are irretrievably lost in the conventional quasi-phonetic transliteration of Hebrew in Roman characters. It is a useful tool for testing the fidelity and reversibility of any Hebrew-to-Roman transcription system. (Translation below.)
For a PDF version, showing the Hebrew, conventional and SimHebrew transliterations, and translation, click here.Continue reading