Notes by Autumn Light

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

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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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Introducing SimHebrew: Hebrew unbound

If you ever wondered why the Russian letter sha (ш) is so similar to the Hebrew letter shin (ש) (which, to be frank, you probably haven’t, unless you’re a Russian-speaking Israeli), the reason is, of course, that the Cyrillic alphabet is derived from the Greek one, which in turn was derived from the Phoenician alphabet, which was also the original Hebrew alphabet, in which the shin was a w-like character:

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