Sunday, December 12, 2010

'yk 'pšr lqr' dbr kzh?

I highly recommend Emuanuel Tov's Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. It's thorough and well-written. Unfortunately Tov's citations rub me the wrong way. Let me give an example:

  • S. Goren, "htpylyn mmdbr yhwdh l'wr hhlkh," Mḥnym 62 (1962) 5-14.
I understand the idea. Hebrew has never acquired a standard romanization scheme, its potential pinyin confounded by conflict between the historical and modern, the written and the spoken. It seems logical to avoid the issue by mapping graphemes one-to-one, with few diacritics needed (only for ח,ט,ש, and some sort of chupchik for ע)...

...however, this borders on insanity. Who is helped by the omission of vowels? Excluding the typist (laziness is no excuse), no reader could be facilitated by this wholesale omission. No one has practice reading sans vowel in Latin script besides Egyptologists, and anyone who knows enough Hebrew to actually check out an article in the language would be able to read any other sort of transcription and infer how to write it in its original script. For that matter, what's wrong with just writing the title in Hebrew script?

Unfortunately, I find that it's rare to read anything that's been transliterated without feeling some sort of disdain towards someone. And I admit to the crime myself: I code-switch between Israeli, Ashkenazi, and Academic. There's lots more I could say about this matzav but I think I'll save myself some material for another post...

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