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FW: Hebrew screen readers

From: Lisa Seeman <seeman@netvision.net.il>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2002 22:50:29 -0700
To: "W3c-Wai-Gl@W3.Org (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Cc: er@uts.cc.utexas.edu, "W3c-Wai-Pf@W3.Org (E-mail)" <w3c-wai-pf@w3.org>
Message-id: <001b01c24e56$d3192670$7200000a@patirsrv.patir.com>

An interesting perspective from Esther Raizen, controversial but interesting

Her second idea, could be modified to just not requiring full vowels but
just enough to differentiate separate meaning is supported by the current
wording of the guideline
yes the academics will be some what upset

If we do consider modifying the ancient and historical Hebrew vowel system
then may I recommend that we add a header setting which allows most
renderings to not show the vowels encoded. Otherwise we may find ourselves
in an area of religious sensitivities.
Such a heading setting (through PF) would also make people more comfortable
about making mistakes in their vowels.

Forwarded with permission

All the best,

Lisa Seeman

UnBounded Access

Widen the World Web


-----Original Message-----
From: esther raizen [mailto:er@uts.cc.utexas.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2002 6:05 AM
To: Lisa Seeman
Subject: RE: Hebrew screen readers

This is what I expected, more or less.  Development for commercial
purposes will always require a high return on the investment, which
in itself is very high.  An affordable solution will probably have to
come from academia, and even there you will rarely find the
willingness to absorb the cost and create a tool that is available to
the public at no cost or at a nominal cost.  I hope that the Technion
takes it on in some way.
As for vowels:  There are two reasons why vocalization is difficult.
One is technical, that is, how to physically insert vowels into a
text (for which, as you write, a number of very reasonable solutions
exist; I have been doing it for years, and although I still view it
as a daunting task, it is not impossible at all).  The second, which
is more significant, is the simple fact that very few people know how
to vocalize Hebrew.  This is normally done by a professional, which
again involves high costs.  People will not vocalize their texts
because they will not know how to do that, and even if they can do it
technically, most people will not want to appear ignorant by entering
sequences of wrong vowels.  This is enough to kill the whole
endeavor, I am afraid.
Unless we advocate one of two things:
Writing Hebrew in Latin characters (people will jump through the
roof, but this is not such a terrible idea if one uses it for special
purposes).  If, as I wrote to you in an earlier message, this is
somehow done as hidden text behind the Hebrew presentation, and the
screen reader reads the hidden rather than the visible text, the only
work involved on the part of the author would be to write the passage
twice, once in Hebrew and once in Latin characters.  This is much
easier than vocalizing.
Deciding on a reduced, and, therefore, non-grammatical, vocalization
system, where you have one symbol for each vowel irrespective of its
historical origin.  Thus, the noun ganav, thief, written
gimel-patach-nun-dagesh-kamatz-bet, and the verb ganav, he stole,
written gimel-kamatz-nun-patach-bet  will be both written
gimel-a-nun-a-bet.  Again, people will jump through the roof, but
that is the reality of all script reforms, and as long as one views
it as a solution to a specific problem which does not have to apply
to the language in general there is a chance that with good reasoning
it will be accepted.  Accessibility is the best reasoning I can think
Feel free to forward this message to people-- I will be glad to
communicate with others on the matter.
Esther Raizen, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Coordinator of Hebrew language program, Dept. of Middle Eastern
Languages and Cultures
Graduate Advisor, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712
Phone:  512-475-6654
e-mail:  er@uts.cc.utexas.edu
web page:  http://www.lamc.utexas.edu/hebrew
Received on Wednesday, 28 August 2002 00:52:10 UTC

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