Why do the Hebrew Alphabetic Presentation Forms Exist

Mark E. Shoulson mark at kli.org
Tue Jun 9 20:41:15 CDT 2020

On 6/9/20 3:53 PM, Michael Everson via Unicode wrote:
> Doesn’t it matter _why_ they are bent?
>> On 8 Jun 2020, at 22:02, Mark E. Shoulson via Unicode <unicode at unicode.org> wrote:
>> Down to one sentence: until you can talk about which LAMEDs in the Torah are bent and which are straight, I would expect this to be a non-starter.

On one hand, no, not really.  On the other hand, well, if there's a 
reason, that's already a start.

See, note that I asked about "which LAMEDs in the *Torah*."  Not a 
certain printing or document.  Because the Torah is not a book, it is 
not a scroll, it is not a computer file.  It's a text, by which I mean 
it is a... conceptual string of characters?  That is to say, it isn't "A 
symbol that looks like this, followed by one that looks like that..." 
it's a BET followed by a RESH followed by an ALEPH... That, at its 
heart, is what "plain text" is all about.  A phrase I tried to coin 
years back: "there's no plain text on paper."  Once you're describing 
how something is printed, you're dealing with something that's been 

The Torah's contents have been dissected and delved through in 
excruciating detail.  We know which letters and symbols come in what 
order.  (We even know some distinctions that _still_ aren't encoded by 
Unicode, and I'm not saying they should be, like the difference between 
a PASEQ and the line that forms part of a LEGARMEHH cantillation.  There 
are lists of PASEQs you can check.)  Whether a LAMED is bent or not is 
determined mainly by whether or not there's space above it the way they 
text has been flowed.  Adding so much as a punctuation mark anywhere 
could mean the text is reformatted, and the situation in the line above 
it could be very different.  It isn't something that depends on the 
text, it depends on the paper, on the formatting.

This doesn't seem like "character" information, to me.


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