Position of Upper Taamei Mikrah

gohebrew's picture

I am creating a set of OpenType fonts for professionally typesetting Biblical Hebrew.

Unlike previous generations of computer-based typeface software, placement of upper taamei mikrah (or taamei mikrah positioned above the Hebrew aleph-beis characters) is no longer determined by the user of the left-to-right typesetting program. Even is cold-type, hot-type, or even computer-based film-type, placement was determined by the operator annd/or the typesetting program. The actual typeface was passive, and did not determine the exact positioning of the various diacritic markings, such as the nikkud, the taamim (trop), the meteg, or the shva-nah, etc.

However, in the newest generation of Biblical Hebrew typesetting, the operator/typesetter and/or the typesetting program does not determine the placement of the diacritic markings. The actual well-crafted OpenType Biblical Hebrew font determines the placement of the diacritic markings.

Since that is the case, I seek to know if there is a rule or wisdom governing the correct positioning of the placement of upper taamei mikrah.

I have noticed in pre-computer age Biblical Hebrew books of the Hebrew Bible, the placement of upper taamei mikrah were often determined by where they would fit best. In most post-computer age Biblical Hebrew books of the Hebrew Bible, many recent books have made the placement of upper taamei mikrah on the far left hand side of Hebrew aleph-beis characters, in order to allow certain symbols to be placed above the Hebrew aleph-beis characters in the center.

It seems then that there are no hard rules or wisdom governing the correct positioning of the placement of upper taamei mikrah. Or, the earlier typesetters or typeface creators/programmers simply were unaware of any hard rules or wisdom governing the correct positioning of the placement of upper taamei mikrah.

Does anybody know if there are rules or wisdom governing the correct positioning of the placement of upper taamei mikrah? Pease share them with me, or inform me of the contacts with the appropriate scholars who do know.

Similar, I am interested in the various rules for shva-nah, shva-nach, komatz katan, komatz gadol, hataf komatz katan, hataf komatz gadol, and any other grammaticalrules governing Hebrew.

gohebrew's picture


>...why are you asking about grammar rules of such an esoteric topic such as taamey mikra on a forum for typography? Aren’t you completely off-topic?

I ask myself this too each day.

But as the thread began, this subject of an automatic response, like the effect of the furtive patach, is an issue of OpenType's advanced programming in Volt, using the GSUB command in a creative way.

So, it is on topic (as you see, my interest is understanding how kamatz katan and shva-na can be derived fromcontext, not in the traditional grammatical way).

raphaelfreeman's picture

Okay, touche! But I think the problem here is your obsession of creating a perfect font which of course there is nothing wrong with, on the contrary, but... and here is the kicker, you need to define the scope of a perfect font.

I'll tell you another secret, since, to date, I think I'm the only person to have created a taamey mikra font to this complexity, I would strongly suggest that you first create the font that works within the scope of the full Tanakh (including sifrey emet), with no collisions and if you like with the furtive patach indicated like in Koren. Once you have succeeded in doing this and compiling such a font (no mean task) then see if you can make an "intelligent" font which puts in automatic kamatz katan and shva na according to whatever system you decide on.

I strongly recommend you do this in this order. The task is monumental. As you create the font, you'll understand why I'm saying to do in 2 stages. You need to compile the font at the end of the day and Volt is limited as to the number of instructions you can compile.

We have decided that first the font has to be kerned and have kerned every single pair (not just a few problematic ones). This took up a tremendous amount of space. We then decided to create a very accurate positioning system with very few compromises. Yes a kamatz, patach, tzere and segol are positioned the same, but they are different from a kamatz katan and a chataf kamatz and a chataf kamatz katan.

This all takes up valuable lines of code within the font. We are hoping that we will be able to compile the final font, but we are probably going to have a separate font for sifrey emet since the rules of taamim are different for these 3 books and I don't think the font will handle that.

This is why I say, wait with your "intelligent features" until you have your main face working.

I've just received a commission from a community that wants me to create a siddur for them. They davka don't want a shva na but they do want a kamatz katan. How would you handle such a client? In my Koren font, I have a medium weight shva for such a situation and because it's not automatic I have no problem.

Also, you have only talked about Tanakh, but what if somebody wants to use your typeface for setting a siddur. Let's say they want your font because you have taamim for the shema but don't need it any thing else? If so, how would handle different rules for words from different periods of time. Eg how would you handle Yevarechcha which has no shva na because that rule didn't exist at the time of the Tanakh, or Ata rather than aTA from texts from the Rishonim?

Or is siddur not of any interest?

William Berkson's picture

Raphael, if you'll indulge a novice, what is the difference between a chataf kamatz and a chataf kamatz katan? I thought all chataf kamatz were pronounced the same, as a kamatz katan. Does this have something to do with te'amim?

raphaelfreeman's picture

sorry, technically speaking all chataf kamatzim are the same as a chataf kamatz katan.

However, if you are distinguising visually between a kamatz katan and kamatz gadol (a recent invention), then you'll want to make the chataf kamatz (since it's katan) different too. Ie if you are enlarging the kamatz katan then your chataf kamatz will be enlarged too. If you are not distinguishing then you'll want the chataf kamatz to be a regular sized kamatz, so you'll need two glyphs in the font.

david h's picture


> Eg how would you handle Yevarechcha which has no shva na because that rule didn’t exist at the time of the Tanakh, or Ata rather than aTA from texts from the Rishonim?

I still don't understand where & why there's a problem with Ata vs. aTA -- or any other word ? We call it Nasog Ahor, retraction of the accent. This issue is a little bit complex since there're.... [I see my notes now] ....something around 40 rules + exceptions!!!!

Genesis 18 (the same word, of course).
Sample #1 is verse 32: Milra (the letter resh); the bet is with sheva.
Sample #2 is verse 30: Milel (the letter bet) , nasog ahor, and since of the nasog the bet is with tsere.

Psalms 89: 27, 76:8 -- Ata vs. aTA

since of the nasog we change the patach to kamats; and the original position of the accent was under the tav.

BTW, Israel, sheva after Nasog Ahor is Na (and not Nach!). See the classic example (Genesis 21: 6)

david h's picture


As you know some scholars say A..... and some scholars say B. For example: Hosea 2:17.

Koren Bible -- Milra

Breuer, and also Dotan (Adi Bible) -- Milel (nasog ahor)

raphaelfreeman's picture


I guess I didn't articulate very well what I wanted to say, but you did much better than me in your samples. The point that I was trying to make, which you did so visually well, is that there are lots of exceptions and opinions which Israel doesn't realise and therefore encoding all options within a font won't ever work. However, Israel really wants it to work so I've given up arguing with him.

gohebrew's picture

Shavuah tov!

re: Chataf Kamatz Katan

Prof. Aron Dotan also sincerely asked about the distinction between chataf kamatz and chataf kamatz katan. This indicates that he thinks there is validity of a distinction, but was asking what that distinction is, and whether he agrees with it, or not.

I cited examples which Shai Lemorah published (they are posted here) where what appears by most everyone as chataf kamatz should rather be chataf kamatz katan.

According Shai Lemorah's publisher, Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Winefels, there is clearly a difference.

Hence, if it alludes Prof. Dotam and inspire him to ask, I think Raphael - with all due respect - is not qualified to answer.

I search for similarly structure Hebrew words in Chumash, the Bible, Pentateuch, and sure enouth Shai Lemorah indicated that it needed not a kamatz katan, but rather a chataf kamatz katan. Furthermore, in Shai Lemorah printing the famous Zemirot which are sung on the Sabbath, chataf kamatz katan also appears.
The argument against the shva-na symbol being applied to Biblical verses is very weak. Even nikkudot, nor taamim, were not around when Moses received the Torah.

Obvious, the application of shva-na symbols is more than justified, as the pronuncition indicated b a shva-na sysbol always existed. At one point in time, we learned about it. Later, scholars as great as Rabbi David Kimchi at his time, or Rav Zalman Henna (Hanau) at his time, or Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Winefield in our time, introduced these symbols to us.

Just because in earlier times, knowledge of a symbol was not known is no valid reason that when it is known later, it can not be applied to text from an earlier time.

If this foolish assumption (no offence) was true, today people would eat each other alive, because coexistance was discovered at an earlier time.

raphaelfreeman's picture


Yet again you mix things up and misunderstand the point. Let me explain to you slowly:

1. The kamatz gadol and kamatz katan are traditionally indicated visually in the same way. It's the same nikud representation and it's typically just called a kamatz. That's it.

2. Some publishers in the past, typically of non-Ashkenazi siddurim, indicated it differently because that particular nusach pronounced it differently and not everyone reading the siddur was educated enough to know the difference. For example, I remember seeing a siddur from 1890s or so for the Spanish and Portuguese congregation which had a cut-off kamatz to indicate kamatz katan.

3. The Rinat Yisrael Siddur in the 1970s and the Koren Siddur which came out in the 1980s were the first large-scale Ashkenazi siddurim to popularise the enlarged kamatz as a kamatz katan since in the Israeli pronunciation system, kamatz katan is pronounced differently.

4. Not all siddurim and chumashim however, make this distinction for many reasons. For example the Koren Tanakh doesn't have this distinction because the grammatical rules for determining kamatz katan is different for sephardim and ashkenazim and Elyahu Koren didn't want his Tanakh to be sectarian but rather for all of am yisrael.

5. If you are not going to indicated the kamatz katan with an enlarged kamatz and are going to use the regular kamatz symbol for both kamatz katan and kamatz gadol (eg Artscroll and thousands of other Jewish publications over the centuries), then you are going to use the regular chataf kamatz symbol even though of course it is always pronounced "oh".

6. If you are going to indicated kamatz katan by using a separate glyph, then there is a strong argument for using a similarly enlarged chataf kamatz for all chataf kamatzim since they are all katan. One could argue that this is moot since they are all katan in the same way one could argue that making the shva at the beginning of a word larger to indicate a shva na is daft because the shva at the beginning of a word is always shva, however, Israel has already demonstrated that at least one person in the world (who happens to be Israel) thought that all shvas at the beginnning of the word were nach! Therefore for the benefit of Israel, I would recommend all publishers making the chataf kamatz enlarged if they are making the kamatz katan larger.

That was point about the kamatz katan and the chataf kamatz katan. And, I should add, I may not be a grammarian, but I have typeset 2 siddurim (the new Singer's (UK) and the new Koren (USA/OU)), 5 chumashim (one for Chabad I might add) and the entire 2nd edition of Encylopedia Judaica including the complicated article on Masora in which I sat for many hours with Prof. Dotan (mentioned somewhere on these threads). If that doesn't make me qualified on a typography forum, I'm not what does.

In reference to the shva na. I'm not sure what you are saying. I'm not saying that the shvas shouldn't be distinguished in a Tanakh, I'm just pointing out that it's not. To date, an accurate Tanakh with shva na and shva nach indicated doesn't yet exist. We at Koren are producing one, but it's many many years away.

Interestingly you don't bring up indicating dagesh chazak and dagesh kal...

Finally, Israel, you confuse many topics into one. You seem to talk about:
a) what should be encoded on the Unicode standards
b) what publishers should do
c) what you think should be hard-encoded into a font
d) what the rebbe would have done in such a situation
e) you ask advise about grammar and then act as though you are an expert based on what you have learned on the thread 5 minutes earlier
f) disseminating incorrect information about various topics (is that just to get people to write back and argue with you)

I'm curious, after all these months of ranting, have you actually created a single font that works?

gohebrew's picture

Are suggesting, there is no practical difference between kamataz katan and chataf kamatz?

If yes, why does Shay Lemorah differentiate between a chataf kamatz and chataf kamatz katan?

gohebrew's picture

>...5 chumashim (one for Chabad I might add)...

Did you do Rabbi Vishnefsky's new Chumash for Chabad of Callifornia publish by Kehot?

gohebrew's picture

>To date, an accurate Tanakh with shva na and shva nach indicated doesn’t yet exist.

Shay Lemorah, 2nd edition, did it a few years ago.

Visit Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Winefeld הרב שמואל יהודה ונפלד - he live in Jerusalem, and created a custom font with:
a) elongated kamatz for kamatz katan
b) a floating asterisk within a circle for a shva-na symbol
and ta-dah
c) a chataf kamatz katan

Prof. Dotan asked me: "What's that?"

The professor asks the fool!

gohebrew's picture

>...Interestingly you don’t bring up indicating dagesh chazak and dagesh kal...

David brought it in the ice age (a few posts back) about the gimmeel dagusha of geula, which I mistakenly left out its dagesh. Stupid me.

After a few more posts, you know after the ice stated to melt, and David cited millions of examples (I think Mike got involved too), David explain there were strong and weakdagesges.

Is that what you mean?

If so, how do we know a dagesh is chazak strong or kal weak?

When it breaks rule, we say that normally its weak, but here its strong. And save face.

gohebrew's picture

>d) what the rebbe would have done in such a situation

Come on, I did not.

The Rebbe was in for of not changing thew status quo when it came to books.

In fact, he was againt retypesetting classic works. Why? Because why one retypesets, new printers' errors result.

Even though for me he blessed my desire to retypeset the Talmud etc. Why? Because I don't make typos? Sure, I make a lot more typos than you! If I had a dollar for typo, Warren Buffet would sweep my floor for Shabbat. "Here, Warren, you missed this corner."

Not to say, the Rebbe followed the status quo. In 1951, after he became Rebbe, he pulled out of Agudat Yisroel.

"They talk talk talk about kiruv, we gonna do it."

He made Chabad Houses. In the early, one day they will everywhere. Today, Chabad House are in more places in the world than Coca-Cola. Today, Lubavitch is the fastest growing biggest influence in Jewish world. You know it in your own life.

William, in the next few decades Reform will go the way of the maskilim. A thing of the past.

gohebrew's picture

>I’m curious, after all these months of ranting, have you actually created a single font that works?

Yes, many.

I am a professional type design in non-Roman languages.

In the last three months, with the professional help from Diane Collier (highly recommended by the MicroSoft Typography Group) and with a very close working relationship with John Hudson (he never heard of Tzika - such a liar -0 you well for his non-Shomer Shabbat skills - yes the Koren Bible was made through Hilul Shabbat - nowonder Cheredim don't want it), I have mastered Volt.

My goal is to make 100 Biblical Hebrew face in 2009. Most of which will be sold commercially, as I described earlier. Some will be reserved for me to use exclusively to retypeset all the classic books produced by Romm and others. Then, I will release then.

Crown (my Koren) I won't release until after you do not to hinder your sales. In the USA, design is not protected by US Copyright laws. Patent is, but I doubt if you'll or Tzvika will patent it.

To answer your question: 2 Frankruhls (which you saw), 2 Henris (Hadasa), 2 Milons (New Hadasa-like, 1 AchimRomm-Dark, very soon a lot more.

gohebrew's picture

Back to the beginning of this thread, according to Minchat Shai and Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Winefeld of Shay Lemorah an upper taam never occurs in the place of shva-na.

Hence, the rules for upper taamim and shva-na must be connected.

We don't know yet what that is.

gohebrew's picture


Look at the thread called "Sheva, custom marks..." for a discussion of dagesh chazak.

To me it was a shock.

Now, I wish someone would define clearly what differs between a long and short vowel. William, please explain.

Then, explain how that defines whether or not the next letter's shva is na or nach? Kimchi doesn't.

It's chocalate. Just eat it. It tastes good, believe me. Sounds like blind faith to me, and I'm the reliogious guy. Me and Raphael.

After that, David, please explain or show as before a meteg causing the next letter's shvah to be...na or nach. I think you said nach.

Now, what about Biblical text, which Rabbi Shmuel Rabin said has a different meteg, a secondary accent mark or stress, and a certain taam does what does in non-Biblical text, the primary accent mark or stress. Is it a particular taam, or does it change depending upon the verse?

david h's picture

> After that, David, please explain or show as before a meteg causing the next letter’s shvah to be...na or nach. I think you said nach.

do you like to post or read? do you see my post with nasog ahor + sheva na (Genesis 21: 6); do you see the meteg/gaya -- not regular heavy gaya

david h's picture


= Chataf Kamats =

The chataf kamats -- that said, chatuf, katan -- wasn't a must by the Masorah (optional by the scribes).

Aleppo MS -- there are only 4! words with chataf kamats.
Leningrad MS -- 1! word.
Lm MS -- 2 words.

See the example -- Aleppo, Jeremiah 2:12

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