Friday, March 17, 2006

Left-to-Right Marker

The Left to Right marker is no great mystery. I knew it was there but I seem to have no ability to remember anything that I have not used. So now it is in the mix. Fortunately Mike has just written about (U+200e) here. This page will give all 15o ways to input the character. It somehow managed to be placed in the 'punctuation' block - I would never have thought of looking for it there.

Now the question is, where is it on the Windows Hebrew keyboard? There were various suggestions that I found scattered on the internet, things like alt + left shift, and shift + backspace, but I was not successful with these. However, entering code was successful.

I would be vaguely interested, just the same, in whether there is a one keystroke entry for the left-to-right marker, lrm, on the Hebrew keyboard, just so I can record google search result counts for bidi languages, you understand.

I started this post a couple of days ago. In the meantime I have had a little discussion about certain letters in the Greek range, i.e. stigma and others, that do not appear on the Greek keyboard. I have now put a link in the sidebar to the Unicode Character Search, which gives details on how to enter a character by code in different applications. Mike has had this link on his blog from the beginning and I simply did not follow it till now.

I am getting used to the idea of entering a character by code. This represents progress for me. It was probably only 6 months ago that I made fun of the idea of entering a character by its codepoint, which just goes to show that you should never give up on someone, especially yourself.

I started keyboarding with children about three years ago and looked at technology from their perspective. I would never have gone beyond that if not for one circumstance. I was sitting in a staff meeting one September watching the volunteer signup list make its way around the room. When it got to me there were two blanks left - coach of the basketball team and webmaster. I gulped and chose the latter. The fact that I had just learned to use email that same month did not seem to be an impediment.

It feels good to be back - this is better than jigsaw puzzles. As someone else said, I have no idea what all this is about but I enjoy it anyway. That makes two of us.

PS Language Hat has recently posted about Balashon a new website about Hebrew.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Update on the Tel Zayit Abecedary

On March 8, 2006, Dr. Ron Tappy made a further presentation on the Tel Zayit abecedary. Here are some details from the Tel Zayit website which correspond to his talk.
    1. The Tel Zayit finding is an inscription that bears the oldest known securely datable example of an abecedary, that is, the letters of the alphabet written out from beginning to end in their traditional sequence.

    2. The inscribed stone might have been built into the wall because of the ancient belief in the alphabet's magical or apotropaic power, that is, its ability to ward off evil.

    3. The stone bearing the Tel Zayit Inscription comprised part of a wall belonging to a structure that dates to the late tenth century BCE.

    4. Preliminary results suggest that in the tenth century BCE Tel Zayit was associated with the highland culture of southern Canaan, not the coastal culture of the Philistine plain, and therefore it very well may have functioned as part of the new state being formed by Kings David and Solomon, with its capital at Jerusalem.

    5.. The early appearance of literacy at Tel Zayit will play a pivotal role in the current discussion of the archaeology and history of Israel and Judah in the tenth century BCE.

    6..It raises the possibility that formal scribal training at the outlying site of Tel Zayit was a result of a rapidly developing Israelite bureaucracy in Jerusalem.
Some find that there is a series of abstract leaps here from one thing to another. I find that the extension from the original inscription on stone to a bureacracy is somewhat bold. Maybe they both existed, but the connection seems tenuous.

Here are four statements from the Wikipedia entry.
    1. It was found in-situ in a stratum dated to the 10th century BCE by a fire dated to approximately 900 BCE.

    2. Until this discovery, critics could say inhabitants of this region at this period were illiterate and could not have recorded events mentioned in the Bible.

    3. It not only preserves writing--simple graffiti--but an abecedary, an educational tool for literate people (although there are 4 pairs of letters swapped from their traditional alphabetic order, and possibly 2 other misplaced letters were aborted; indications that reflect negatively on the scribe's skill level).

    4. The site is located in a region not central to the government of the Israelite monarchy (Jerusalem), which suggests that if people in this agricultural community could write, certainly people in the government were equally capable.
However, Paul Iverson, of Case Western Reserve University recently sent an e-mail regarding Dr. Tappy's March 8th presentation at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Iverson has a particular interest in Greek epigraphy and philology. He sent this email to Chris Heard on Higgaion.

Iverson states,

    His arguments that this inscription is an abecedarium that provides evidence for an alternate official order (I can't understand the claim on the website of a "traditional sequence" since it clearly isn't the traditional order as Tappy pointed out several times) of the letters is also rather rash.

    I would offer two other more likely explanations: either it was a novice who was practicing and thus made mistakes (quite common on Greek examples), or it was someone who was more concerned with practicing the shapes of the letters rather than the order (i.e., it's not really meant to be a abecedarium).

    I incline toward the latter explanation as the letters seemed to be of high quality. Some scribe who's interested in practicing or giving an example of his letter strokes does not worry so much about inscribing them deeply or in their proper order - just give them all and inscribe them deep enough to practice the shapes. Again, on comparative material from the Greek world, one often finds abecedaria with peculiar orders in the letters or shapes, even as late as the fifth century BCE.
And he sums up his arguments as follows,

    To recap: the inscription was probably reused into the wall without some apotropaic [magical]purpose, hence it cannot simply be assumed to date at the time the wall was built -- rather it dates before the wall was built.

    Only a small fraction of the Tell has been excavated, so it cannot yet be claimed with certainty that there was nothing going there in the 11th century and thus that inscription has to be during the 10th century.

    It was found in a context where there was both coastal and highland culture so as of yet, so far as I could tell, it cannot fairly be claimed to incline toward the highland (i.e., it cannot be said to be the earliest example of a Hebrew alphabet).

    It cannot even be said that this was meant to be an abecedarium in the sense that it was used to display the official order of the letters of the alphabet, since we do not know the purpose of it.
There is a post on Abnormal Interests on the order of the inscription, and Dr. Joe Cathey comments here. An ealrier post on Higgaion makes some excellent points.

I would like to add my own little comment. I worked for several years on a study of literacy among the James Bay Cree. There are many conflicting and contradictory theories on the origins of this literate tradition, and I think some of them could possibly be cleared up in my lifetime. But that story starts in the 1800's .

Note: Image from the NY Times.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Byzantine Fonts (Beta)

Click on this image to enlarge. This quotation is from Aristotle as quoted in a 1724 edition of Erasmus' Colloquies. The font is from Vernon Kooy. Translation help is requested. I can't find the original text. I can get the gist of this but haven't been able to come up with a word of mouth translation that would be acceptable to the good grammarian.

After looking at the charts of all 650 characters in this beautiful font many Byzantine manuscripts have become less opaque. This is simply the best resource for Byzantine ligatures that I have ever seen. I can spread out all the ligatures in front of me for comparison, and there are even some tachygraphy characters included. More about these later.

Here is a description from its creator.

    The name of this font is Rgreekl, which stands for Renaissance Greek with Ligatures. It is a large font with approximately 650 characters and uses Unicode WGL4 numbering to accommodate the number of characters. However, It is not a Unicode font. It is beta encoded similar to other Greek fonts which use beta encoding.
    This font is freeware and may be used and distributed freely. I retain the copyright, however, in order to make improvements, expand it, or otherwise come out with an improved version. It is not an imitation of any particular font such as those of Robert Estienne, Holbein or Aldus Manutius. It is rather a composite font which incorporates many glyphs (sorts) from each of the many early printers.

    It is hoped that this font gains a modest distribution and not be a mere curiosity. The font is meant to imitate early printed Greek from the age of incunabula to the end of the 18th century. It is not the intention of this font to make Greek any more difficult or obscure than it already is for beginning students. The font is essentially a font for scholars.
    This font is organized in such a way that it can be used either as a standard Greek font or a font with Ligatures. The basic Latin section contains control codes and keyboard characters for standard Greek with ligatures for kai\, ou and ou=. The Latin supplement section contains Unicode control codes, prepositional prefixes, alternate letter forms and essential diacriticals. These two sections are all that is necessary to write Greek in a Renaissance style. The Latin extended A section is used for two or three letter combinations which more adequately imitate the style of Renaissance typesetters. The Latin extended B section contains characters which are variants of those given in the previous section as well as some characters from earlier minuscule forms (used in some Renaissance fonts), entire words found in most Renaissance printed books and a number of combining characters used to make up other ligatures not previously included.
    The main source I used for this font was initially the Portus edition of Proclus Diadochus' Platonic Theology published in Frankfurt in 1618. In addition I have used and consulted various internet sources and the articles by Coleman, Ingram and Wallace as well as a number of books printed by Stephanus, Holbein, Manutius and Sheldon Theater.
    I cannot say that this font is complete in the sense that every Renaissance Ligature is represented; many early printers had at least 500 sorts in their boxes and some had more than a thousand. The Renaissance printers imitated the minuscule current at their time, and the glyphs they used were determined by the minuscule. Thus this font can also be used as a late minuscule font.
    If there is any sort (Glyph) conspicuously missing which the user finds essential, I would appreciate hearing from him/her in that regard, since I think a font of this type is never fully finished and is of necessity a work in progress.
I use Babelmap to input this font. In my opinion Babelmap is an essential Unicode Input Utility tool which handles any font easily. It is easy to view and manipulate fonts visually with Babelmap. Download Babelmap here. Please email me, my email is in my profile, and I will give you Vernon Kooy's email address.

Update: Here is the text from the image above. . However, there are a couple of words and forms I cannot identify.

οτι μανθανουσιν Επισταμενοι τα γαρ αποστοματιζομενα μανθανουσιν οι Γραμματικοι το γαρ μανθανειν ομωνυμον το τε ξυνιεναι χρωμενον τη επιστημη και το λαμβανειν την επιστημην

PS: I am going to come back to the Left to Right Marker LRM tomorrow.

Update: I have corrected some of my rather careless errors. Next, I am posting Simon's Unicode text for this and a link for the original text. Thanks, Simon.

Ὅτι μανθανουσιν οἱ ἘπιϚάμενοι· τἀ γαρ ἀποϚοματιζόμενα μανθάνουσιν οἱ Γραμματικοί· τό γαρ μανθάνειν ὁμώνυμον, τό τε ξυνιέναι χρώμενον τῇ ἘπιϚήμῃ, ϰ τό λαμβάνειν τ ἘπιϚήμην.

Hebrew Searches

My garden has gone untended too long. The box of chocolates sits by my computer and has not been passed around. The embroidery threads lie unsewn and the yarn is not knit.

My most sincere apologies. It is not for lack of material that I have been away. Many of the more curious items still await assembly. But an old problem reemerges tonight.

I was working on Hebrew vowels, which are happily keyed in on this online keyboard, second interface here. I have just conducted a google search of אֶרֶץ country, and then of ארץ. Now, no one has told me that they should be the same and maybe it doesn't matter. Nonetheless, I do like to know these things.

For אֶרֶץ there were 45,200 results in Google Israel, and for ארץ there were 3,800,000 results. (I am having some interesting problems here with the right-to-left business, because I really wanted to write the number '3,740,000' to the left of the Hebrew word but I was not able to. The numerics were attached to the Hebrew in a right-to-left sequence. I have to wonder if there is an override that can be used for the right-to-left algorithm. )

Well, this was not what I would call a delectable post. Maybe next time.

Hebrew Dictonary is here.