Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Music and left-to-right Hebrew

What is left-to-right Hebrew? It is what is called SimHebrew.

SimHebrew is very effective as an abbreviation for Unicode characters within a computer program. I took a similar approach 15 years ago when I was developing my analytical tools for Hebrew. I recently converted my approach to SimHebrew. It is not quite what I was used to, but the lower case is a great improvement over an uppercase transcription. What I am still getting used to is a new pronunciation response.
Hebrew Square Letters
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת
My first abbreviation for internal programming usage is close to a standard keyboard layout
T W R Q C P ` S N M L K Y + X Z V H D G B )
Sim Hebrew
t w r q x p y s n m l c i 't k z v h d g b a
I still use + internally for tet. Presented SimHebrew uses an escaped t. On the above, here's a note from Jonathan Orr-Stav, the inventor of SimHebrew:
As for standing in for ayin: remember that it's only the 19th-century German linguists who decided on the phonetic mapping of the Hebrew alphabet to the Latin (German) one, in ignorance of the historical relationship between the two that decided that yod should be mapped to y. Historically, yod is the ancestor of iota (the clue's in the name), and is therefore should be mapping to i. The Old Hebrew/Canaanite ayin looked like an O and so was downgraded by the ancient Greeks to represent the vowel O, but in its Square Hebrew form serendipitously looks like a lowercase y, so its true function as a carrier of any vowel can be restored in SimHebrew.
The question is, could I show the teamim (accents) with it?

Here is Psalms 35:21 as an example:
וַיַּרְחִ֥יבוּ עָלַ֗י פִּ֫יהֶ֥ם
אָ֭מְרוּ הֶאָ֣ח ׀ הֶאָ֑ח
רָאֲתָ֥ה עֵינֵֽינוּ
I did an early experiment that produced something like this.
virkfibu ylvi p<ihfm
agmru haBk haAk
ratfh yineinu
This is readable much like tonic sol-fa. For the accents below the text I have used the note names that you should move to: f is the reciting note for all except the first note e of the first colon. It has a mordent approaching the ole-veyored, the cadence on the supertonic. g is the reciting note then B then A for the second colon, coming to rest on the subdominant. f then e carries the third colon. (Lower case letters are the octave containing middle c, upper case are the next higher octave. A singer would have to 'know' the symbols for the ornaments.

Could I add the music to the transcribed left-to-right Hebrew. One major problem is to restore the music having removed it to manage pairs of consonants. The rendition below is experimental and reveals another problem, the potential confusion of a dotted I with other diacritics. To deal with that I super-scripted even further the accents above the text. You can easily map the Hebrew symbols to the letters and forms that I used above.
virk֥ibu yl֗i p֫ih֥m
a֭mru ha֣k ha֑k
rat֥h yinֽinu
None of these results has much promise or much use. One does not need cantillation symbols in a URL, and singers need more than SimHebrew can give them in its present state.

One thing is clear from the exercise I have done of translating the Westminster Leningrad Codex to SimHebrew and in doing this, comparing the WLC with the maleh (unpointed with standardized spelling) text, letter by letter. There is no impact in the music on pronunciation. The music (accents) and the vowels (and a few confused and confusing jots) are clearly separate magisteria. The systems are completely independent of each other. This allows the music to have arisen from a separate consideration than preserving pronunciation. I think it is likely that the music is older than the vowels. For tone of voice, see this comparison here (A clearer summary of the accents you may never see).

Here is the music with my home-grown transcription (Mode 3, Lydian, major-minor with C♮).
Psalms 35:21
It is quite possible to learn to sight-read the music of the original Hebrew using Haïk-Vantoura's deciphering key without a score. Notice that this verse is a tri-colon marked out by two inner cadences, the first an ole-veyored on the supertonic, the second via the atnah on the subdominant.



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