Why do the Hebrew Alphabetic Presentation Forms Exist

Mark E. Shoulson mark at kli.org
Tue Jun 9 21:09:06 CDT 2020

Hm, you think?  This is like a font sample, showing all the alternate 
glyphs.  An old-time italic font might have 3 different "s"s or "n"s, 
depending on how much swoop and swash the typesetter felt like using at 
that particular spot, and the type sample pages would show them all, but 
that doesn't make them all distinct characters.  I think 
is for handwriting, but one could easily imagine a typeface imitating 
that, with all those different forms of f and g and so on.  They're 
still just f's.  (I can see if I have some actual type samples for 
better examples if needed...)

(I read Haralambous'(*) article on "Tiqwah" years ago; he definitely did 
some very careful work and study in Biblical typesetting.  But note, 
_typesetting_.  The art of laying out glyphs on paper.  That's not the 
same thing as characters.)


(*) I think this may be the first time I noticed that his name isn't 
"Harambolous", which for some reason I thought it was.  Apologies, 

On 6/9/20 12:44 PM, Michael Everson via Unicode wrote:
> To respond to Mark, I’d say that these examples here certainly show a fairly obvious glyph distinction that is not really a “hard sell”.
>> On 8 Jun 2020, at 18:45, Abraham Gross via Unicode <unicode at unicode.org> wrote:
>> Unicode encodes characters that other character sets have even though it normally wouldn't. So if I find a character set with a folded lamed they'd add it?
>> Here are 2 character sets with a folded lamed:
>> https://i.imgur.com/iq8awBe.jpg – an אלף בינה with the standing and folded lameds as separate letters.
>> https://www.tug.org/TUGboat/tb15-3/tb44haralambous-hebrew.pdf#page=12 – A TeX typesetting module with the standing and folded lameds as separate characters for fine-grain control when the automatic system doesn't work.
>> 2020年6月7日 10:27, "Mark E. Shoulson via Unicode" <unicode at unicode.org> wrote:
>>> On 6/7/20 7:46 AM, Richard Wordingham via Unicode wrote:
>>> I agree.  Sorry, pretty typography is nice and everything, but if bent LAMED is anything, it's at
>>> best a presentation form (and even that is a hard sell.)  You show ANYONE a word spelled with any
>>> combination of bent and straight LAMEDs and ask how it's spelled, they'll just say "LAMED" for each
>>> one.  Unicode encodes different *characters*, symbols that have a different *meaning* in text, not
>>> things that happen to look different.  A U+05BA HOLAM HASER FOR VAV means not just "a dot like
>>> U+05B9 only shifted over a little," it means that there is something *different* going on: VAV plus
>>> HOLAM usually means one thing (a VAV as mater lectionis for an /o/ vowel), this is a consonantal
>>> VAV followed by a vowel.  In spelling it out, you could call one a holam malé, but not the other.
>>> A QAMATS QATAN is not just a qamats that looks a little different, it is a grammatically distinct
>>> character, and moreover one that cannot be deduced algorithmically by looking at the letters around
>>> it.  What you're talking about is a LAMED and a LAMED.  They are two *glyphs* for the same
>>> character, and Unicode doesn't encode glyphs (anymore?)
>>> ~mark

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