Notes by Autumn Light

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


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What do you think of the new “Latinized Kazakh” alphabet from the point of orthography and phonetics?

I don’t know Kazakh, but I do know that the proliferation of letters with apostrophes in the new proposed alphabet is a mistake.

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Is there any specific set of instructions on how to Romanize Hebrew?

The Square Hebrew / SimHebrew™ Converter will convert any Square Hebrew text into Roman characters (and back again), with full fidelity with regard to spelling and distinction between seemingly homophonous characters:

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As with French, German, Italian, or any other Roman-based language, however, you would have to bear in mind that certain characters have different phonetic values compared with English:

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So long Genesis, hello Exodus: the SimHebrew Bible

Imagine a Latin text—e.g. the first verse of the Latin Vulgate Bible:

In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram Terra autem erat inanis et vacua et tenebrae super faciem abyssi et spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas.
Most of us don’t know Latin, but at least we can read it, and guess at the meaning of some words—or look them up.

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Why was almost all the knowledge of Ancient Egypt lost until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone? Did the Romans or Greeks write nothing about it?

hieroglyphics

Ancient Egyptian paid the price of being over-exclusive. Since the skill of writing (and reading) hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic writing was jealously guarded by a small, exclusive caste of scribes, once the Alexandrian and Roman conquests undermined the old Pharaonic regime and made Greek the new language and culture of the elite, that skill became largely redundant, and died out with the scribes.

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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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Test the fidelity and reversibility of any Hebrew-to-Roman transcription system with this poem

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:

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