[XeTeX] Combining pair of vowels to single base char in Hebrew

Gildas Hamel gweltaz at ucsc.edu
Tue Dec 10 23:25:43 CET 2013

Apologies for sending the query below too early without the proper

I ran into a problem with XeLaTeX when using SBL Hebrew, which is my font
of choice.  When I switch to NewJerusalemU or Ezra SIL, the problem
disappears. I'm not sure however the problem is due to SBL Hebrew, as it
renders perfectly in Mellel.

The case involves the unusual combination in the Hebrew writing of
Jerusalem, namely a pair of vowels combined with one single base consonant.
The particular case is the word "Jerusalem" in Isaiah 44:28 (Leningrad
Codex). It happens elsewhere (I mean, this spelling/writing of Jerusalem,
as well as the combination of two vowels and a single base consonant in
very few other words). In this case, the two vowels "a" (pataḥ) and "i"
(ḥiriq) are joined to lamed or L of yerūšālaĭm.

The word is correctly rendered in Mellel, as I said, with such fonts as SBL
Hebrew, Ezra SIL, or NewJerusalemU, which I am told use special contextual
rules for such cases. See attachment Jerusalem_Mellel_SBLHebrew.png

When I transfer the text to my TeX editor (TextMate), the order and
direction of consonants is correct but the order of the pair of vowels
mentioned above (pataḥ and ḥiriq) is switched: לִירוּשָׁלִַם
This is also true of my browser's rendition of the text (Safari 7.0) in

Typesetting it via XeLaTeX and using SBL Hebrew font, the lamed and final
mem are jumbled and the pair of vowels attached to the lamed are in the
reverse order: see attachment Jerusalem_XeLaTeX_SBLHebrew.png.

If I use NewJerusalemU or Ezra SIL and XeLaTeX, however, I get the correct
result: see attchmt Jerusalem_XeLaTeX_EzraSIL.png.

Yet, as I said above, the word renders correctly in Mellel when using SBL
Hebrew (or the other two fonts mentioned above). I also wrote separately to
John Huston, who created this SBL set of fonts. He is on a business trip
and cannot investigate the matter until this coming weekend. I decided to
ask the question on XeTeX.org in case someone has an answer to the problem,
and suggestions about how to tell SBL Hebrew to use the contextual rules it
clearly uses in Mellel.

--Gildas Hamel
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