5.0625 Multilingual Software (2/108)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 26 Jan 1992 22:32:32 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0625. Sunday, 26 Jan 1992.

(1) Date: Fri, 24 Jan 92 11:02:00 CST (76 lines)
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: more on multilingual software

(2) Date: Fri, 24 Jan 92 22:28:36 EST (32 lines)
From: "Paul F. Schaffner" <USERGFNK@UMICHUM.BITNET>
Subject: Does RAMFONT have a future? (or, computing with odd characters)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 92 11:02:00 CST
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: more on multilingual software

This is yet another query about multilingual software for biblical
scholars. I just want to know if there is anything new out there -
or anything old I've missed.

For those who have been killing this subject line in the past, but
who happen to be reading this note, we're talking about a range of
software that can

1) print (and one would hope display) Greek and Hebrew characters
2) write bidirectionally (for Hebrew)
3) wordwrap bidirectionally (for Hebrew again)
4) transliterate most languages likely to be cited by biblical scholars
5) offer something in the way of footnoting, style sheets, auto-indexing

There are several software packages that can do these things, but all that
I have examined have significant drawbacks. Typical examples of such draw-
backs include:

1) can't correctly align Hebrew vowels and accents (or can't even do
accents at all)

I can't imagine using a system that couldn't even draw, say, a zaqef, revia,
tifxa, or zarqa on the screen. Good grammatical work has always taken the
accents into account. At a very minimum, software should be able to indi-
cate dagesh, general stress, pausal stress, and metheg (the typical assort-
ment available in introductory Hebrew textbooks like Lambdin and in the

2) no adequate transliteration system for Hebrew

Typically, software makers beat their chests about how they have a trans-
literation alphabet as well as a native Hebrew font. When you examine the
characters used, though, they turn out to be archaic and naive. The phon-
ology of Tiberian Hebrew is a hotly disputed topic. Many scholars have
recently argued that length was not even phonemic in that dialect, and that
the qametz, for instance, should be transcribed as a simple low/back rounded
vowel (a backwards c in IPA). Most transliteration systems I've seen still
force the scholar to use an a + macron for qametz. Obviously they have not
been keeping up with the last twenty years of so of scholarship on such mat-
ters :-). Software needs to be current, and to offer the necessary *trans-
criptional* options.

3) no adequate transliteration system for other NE languages

A transliteration alphabet should include Ugaritic, Arabic, and Akkadian
(as well as Hebrew) - as a minimum. Transliterations suitable for Egyp-
tian, Ethiopic, and South Arabic are nice, but especially the S. Arabic
should not be necessary for most biblical work.

4) lack of portability

A good biblical scholars' word processing system should be portable, in
the sense of being easily convertable into other formats. In general,
it is also good to be able to import CCAT betacoded texts, since these
have become a kind of de facto standard for people working in this area.

One problem that really isn't the software manufacturers' fault is that
they run under operating systems like MS-DOS. It is exceedingly difficult
to cram all that is needed into the small memory space of a DOS-based com-
puter. DOS-based computers also tend not to have very sophisticated dis-
play capabilities, so in most cases you can't get good WYSIWYG output.
I think, though, that I could live with almost anything, as long as the
basic capabilities outlined above were available on some system.

Can somebody tell me if anything - anything even close to the mark -
exists? I've been searching for seven years now. My finger is definitely
*not* on the pulse of the software industry, though, and I wouldn't be at
all shocked if someone told me I'd overlooked an important product. Did
I miss a product that would meet some of the above basic needs?

-Richard Goerwitz

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------37----
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 92 22:28:36 EST
From: "Paul F. Schaffner" <USERGFNK@UMICHUM.BITNET>
Subject: Does RAMFONT have a future? (or, computing with odd characters)

RAMFONT, for those who don't know, is the name of a feature found on the
Hercules Graphics Plus Card (Herc +) which enables text-mode software
like Nota Bene and WordPerfect/DOS, to display up to 3072 different
characters on screen, any and all of which may easily be created or modified
at the whim of the user. It has thus been very handy for those who need
to do multilingual wordprocessing, phonetics, and so on.

Users of the Herc+ who love its features, but have grown weary of the
monochrome world -- and VGA-users who find that glorious color does
nothing towards supplying needed non-standard characters -- may be
interested to learn that Hercules is considering producing a VGA card
with the RAMFONT feature. The sales rep I spoke too indicated that
Hercules is not yet sure whether there is a market for such a product,
and suggested that if I wanted to see a RAM-VGA on the market I should
write them a letter conveying my interest. I fall into the category
of those that find RAMFONT invaluable (especially with NotaBene), but
would occasionally like to see some color graphics as well, so I intend
to write; I urge like-minded people to do likewise. The address is:

Hercules Computer Technology
921 Parker Street
Berkeley, California 94710

I have posted this to NOTABENE, ANSAX-L, MEDTEXTL, and HUMANIST. My apologies
to those who receive multiple copies. (Feel free to forward this.)

Paul Schaffner usergfnk@umichum.bitnet
Middle English Dictionary usergfnk@um.cc.umich.edu