Rdng wtht vwls

Posted in excerpts, research by Lina A.Hadi on July 3, 2011

Research, from ‘Reading a script without vowels’ by James Barr, In Writing Without Letters


” In order to understand the process of understanding, it will be useful to begin with the reading of a pointed text, i.e. one to which have been added all the marks which indicate vowels, absence of a vowel, etc. A pointed Semitic text of this kind can be considered as a text with three bands. A European alphabetic text has one band, one series of letters which you read in succession from left to right, In a Semitic text you have a central band, furnished by the ‘consonantal’ text, and a band above and below in which lie the marks for vowels. The operation of reading can be thought of as the combination of the three bands into one unilinear series. The rules for doing this are quite simple: you read the first sign in the central band, i.e. the first consonant; then you add to this any vowel indicate by a mark in the bands above and below, then you pass on to the next sign in the central band, and do on. (Barr, 1976, 79)”


Two reading processes of reading consonantal scripts, represented schematically by the author:

Pointed text: written signs –> full phoneme series –>semantic interpretation

unpointed text: written signs –> semantic interpretation –> full phoneme series


The reading of traditional but unpointed text works by a sort of two-source method,

(“reading .. being understood to include both translation into the medium of sound and semantic understanding of the meaning.”)


Interpretation of consonantal unpointed text can be derived from the following three clues:

1. word patterns
2. clues from syntax
3. semantic context

(Barr, 1976, 86)



Posted in excerpts, research by Lina A.Hadi on June 30, 2011

Excerpt from ‘Shapes for Sounds‘ (Timothy Donaldson)

” The popularity of Blackletter created lines of letters that looked so alike they were even described with a weaving term, Textura, (from which we also get the word; text).  Therefore, scribes began adding a short dash above the letter to identify it.  The dash eventually became a dot, which was originally called a tittle.  ”

“J is the youngest letter in the Latin alphabet. The Latin alphabet is about 2,700 years old, but J is only about 300 years old … The practice of elongating the stem of the letter i began for the same reason as that of placing a tittle, or small mark, above the letter – differentiation. This lengthened stroke showed when the letter i was being used as a consonant, originally as a Y sound but gradually firming into a J sound as Latin spread through Europe. Also, when a Latin word ended with a double i as in Filii,  a long i (j) would be used to mark the letter pair as different from an n as in Filij… j eventually got the dot from i as well, and was retrospectively given a capital letter.”

I’ve been wondering about this for a while now, the dots don’t really make any sense now, do they?