[XeTeX] Fontspec and SBL Hebrew: Possible Bug?

David Purton dcpurton at marshwiggle.net
Sun Jun 13 15:51:50 CEST 2010


Just wondering if this is a possible bug:

I was looking through the SBL Hebrew manual
(http://www.sbl-site.org/Fonts/SBLHebrewUserManual1.5x.pdf) and noticed
that one of the tricky combinations mentioned in the manual is not
rendered correctly. The particular character in question is the alef on
page 7 of the manual. The SBL Hebrew font is available from

No combinations I entered gave the correct rendering. Looking at the
font, it looks like there are some unmapped glyphs designed to cater for
this and similar cases. Initially I wondered if the ZWJ was a kludge,
but it does seem to appear in at least some copies of the WLC codex
online. Others use the same character ordering, but without the ZWJ.

My file versions:

This is XeTeX, Version 3.1415926-2.2-0.9995.2 (TeX Live 2009/Debian)
xltxtra: 2009/09/02 v0.5
xunicode: 2008/02/08 v0.91
fontspec: 2008/08/09 v1.18
bidi: v1.1.1, <commit 54>, 2010/07/25

Minimal sample file showing various character orderings possible,
incuding the one with the ZWJ mentioned in the manual.

\newfontfamily\hebrewfont[Script=Hebrew,Contextuals=Alternate,Ligatures=Required]{SBL Hebrew}
אֲ‍ֽ֭\quad % alef + hataf patah + ZWJ + meteg + dehi (From SBL Hebrew manual)
אֲֽ֭\quad % alef + hataf patah + meteg + dehi
אֲֽ֭\quad % alef + hataf patah + dehi + meteg
אֲֽ֭\quad % alef + meteg + hataf patah + dehi
אֲֽ֭\quad % alef + meteg + dehi + hataf patah
אֲֽ֭\quad % alef + dehi + hataf patah + meteg
אֲֽ֭      % alef + dehi + meteg + hataf + meteg


Is there a fontspec option I am missing to enable correct rendering in
this case?

Can others confirm that this is a problem (in case some of my files are
too old)?

Any comments on how XeLaTeX/fontspec should behave? It would make sense
to me for at least the first two options in the minimal file above to
render correctly, since I do not understand why the ZWJ would be
necessary other than as a kludge... but I am very ignorant, so they may
be a good reason. Other parts of the SBL Hebrew manual talk about the
font being able to render correctly pointing and cantilation in any
order. However, I don't understand how and when normalisation should



David Purton
dcpurton at marshwiggle.net
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to
strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
                                 2 Chronicles 16:9a
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