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orion: Why C for Tsade

Judith Romney Wegner wrote:

> However, most scholarly work in semitic languages uses s-underdot for
> Tsaddi.  Always thus for Arabic letter sad, and increasingly so for Hebrew
> too.  To use a C is counter-intuitive except for Poles and others whose
> language happens to use the C for the TS sound!
>  Can someone explain why the software people have chosen to use "C" for
> Tsaddi?  A poor choice given the above facts!

1.  At first, when people started writing Hebrew on computers that were
designed to represent English, there were no small letters and certainly
there was no underdot.  Eventually, the 128 characters (characters from 0
to 127) in the ASCII (and EBCDIC) character set allowed lower-case letters
-- but still no underdot. The "upper ASCII"  characters (characters from
128 to 255) were arranged differently on IBM PCs and Macintoshes and on
Adobe Standard encodings -- but still no underdots. 

2.  Therefore, people using ASCII characters to represent Hebrew were
faced with the choice of how to use the existing letters and symbols to
represent Hebrew letters that do not exist in English. For simplicity's
sake, they wanted one English character to correspond to each Hebrew
character.  Most of the English letters were used to represent
corresponding Hebrew letters; for example, "S" to represent Samekh.
Michigan-Claremont "Beta Code," an early and influential transliteration
system, used "$" for shin, "&" for Sin, "+" for Teth, ")"  for Alef, and
"(" for Ayin. In general, the principle was to find an unused character
that either looked like or sounded like the transliterated letter.  What's
left for Tsade? The most likely candidates were "X" and "C".  "X"  starts
with a palatal and so lent itself to use for Heth, and "C" as the
remaining sibilant was used for Tsade.

3.  As Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, and transliteration fonts proliferate, it
is now easy to represent Tsade as an "S" with an underdot in print. 
However, in e-mail, most of us are still stuck with the old lower-ASCII
character set, in which one still cannot type "s-underdot" as one
character -- and so the old workarounds persist. Nobody really likes
Beta Code, but one gets accustomed to it.

4.  Someday "real soon now," Unicode will allow us to send each other
"s-underdot" -- and "s-caron" as well.  In the meantime, a simple guide to
"Beta Code" transliteration for Hebrew can be found at:


Jay C. Treat 			    manager, Instructional Computing
440 Williams Hall                   voice:  (215) 898-9892
The University of Pennsylvania      email:  jtreat@ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Philadelphia PA  19104-6305         www:    http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jtreat/