Why do the Hebrew Alphabetic Presentation Forms Exist

Mark E. Shoulson mark at kli.org
Wed Jun 3 22:02:44 CDT 2020

On 6/3/20 10:21 PM, abrahamgross--- via Unicode wrote:
> This is exactly why I want the folded lamed.
> (I also want the headless lamed cuz I've also seen it used a lot and I really like it. its especially useful when u need to put a RAFE or other trop/accent marks on a folded lamed)

Aha!  So you need it for typesetting reasons!  And that's exactly how 
you should obtain it.  This is *precisely* why God created OpenType 
tables in modern fonts!  So that when you have an AYIN with a vowel 
underneath it, the shape changes so it's flat and not descending as much 
(yes, I know, that's U+FB20 HEBREW LETTER ALTERNATIVE AYIN, but that, 
too, was added for reasons we don't like to admit anymore, and it would 
never be accepted today.)  I know for certain that John Hudson's "SBL 
Hebrew" font does exactly that, see the attached image.  Nothing was 
done between the right frame and the left frame aside from typing a 
QAMATS.  The letter changed automatically, because John Hudson has 
killer typography skillz[sic].  In fact, if I had used a PATAH, the 
letter would _not_ have changed, UNTIL I typed a following letter, 
because a PATAH under an AYIN at the end of a word is a patah genuvah, 
which some prefer to set shifted over to right a little.

I don't know of any font machinery that can actually change things based 
on what's present on the previous *line*; that may not be supported.  
But you can bet that such a thing won't be reason enough to encode a new 

As for wanting other funky shapes, why, there's nothing to stop you.  
Just because they're all glyphic variants of the same letter doesn't 
mean you can't use them both.  You can have stylistic alternatives in a 
font, so THIS "a" is two-story while THAT "a" is one-story, in the same 
font, by using your (higher-level!) formatting software to turn options 
on and off in setting the font.  Look 'em up.

(A more brute-force method would be to make two copies of the font, 
FontA and FontB, the same except that one has a bent LAMED and one has a 
straight LAMED.  Then you could change the LAMEDs you want to be this 
way to FontA and the ones you want that way to FontB.)

(I hope the picture came through.)

Bottom line: it's not bad to want these things, but this is not the way 
to get them.  There are other tools especially for situations like this.


> 2020/06/03 午後9:44:18 Mark E. Shoulson via Unicode<unicode at unicode.org>:
>> The bent LAMED was invented for reasons of typesetting: LAMED is the only letter with an ascender, and it tended to get in the way of things with Hebrew text being set with little or no leading and letter-height filling almost the entire line-height.  You can see where there are straight LAMEDs on your page, that their ascenders reach into places in the line above that happen to be open enough not to cause problems, like spaces between words or letters with no baseline.  Otherwise, the bent LAMED was pressed into service, because that's what it's for.

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