Saturday, January 20, 2007

How to transliterate Hebrew in Latin script?

Have you ever had a chance to see how road signs, street signs and Hebrew text (e.g., Hebrew names) in Israel are represented in Latin Script?

If so, you probably know that there is a problem because there is more than one way to represent the Hebrew text in Latin script.

Should the city פתח-תקוה be transliterated into Petach-Tiquwa or into Ptax-Tiqwa or into Petah-Tikva...?! (there are plenty more possibilities, and those driving to that city can laugh about it while viewing the road signs...).

Apparently there are too many ways, some of them are even documented. See for example: Sadly, there are also some ad-hoc ones...

I find the suggestions made in ISO standard 259-3.1999 (Conversion of Hebrew Characters Into Latin Characters. Part 3: Phonemic Conversion. ISO/TC46/SC2) useful. However, this standard has not yet been adopted.

I recently saw an article by Prof. Uzzi Ornan, which was presented in SIGRTS in volume 13 number 1 in January 2007. Ornan discusses the problems that the Hebrew script poses and the resulting requirements on a Latin transliteration. He further lists the pros and cons of several alternatives and suggests an alternative that has more advantages then other suggested alternative.

I recommend reading this interesting text by Ornan:

I also tried to start a discussion about this in Linguistics forum in Tapuz and in the Hebrew Language forum in Tapuz.

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