For some Old Testament research papers you may find it necessary to include transliterated text for ancient languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, Ugaritic, etc. In that case, thanks to the Tyndale Unicode Keyboard for Hebrew and Greek, finding a way to input the extra characters you need is almost, but not quite, elementary. Read on to find out the best way I know to set up your system for easy entry of transliterated text for ANE languages.
By the way, part of the solution to the problem involves using AutoCorrect in MS Word. So as a bonus, you’ll also learn a trick for easily entering words you use frequently.
Transliteration Fonts and Keyboard
The first thing you need to know is that everything you need for entering basic transliteration characters is freely available, and, if you’re all set up with the Tyndale House Hebrew and Greek keyboards, it’s already on your computer since the Tyndale House keyboards also include a keyboard map for transliteration. All you have to do is set your keyboard to the Tyndale House Greek keyboard, engage the CapsLock key, and set the font Style to “Transliteration” (in forthcoming version 1.2.1).
Voilà! That’s all there is to it.
Except for one thing…
Even if all you need for Hebrew, Ugaritic, Egyptian, etc. are the characters listed in the SBL Handbook of Style, the transliteration keyboard is still missing at least three characters. It doesn’t include Hebrew alef or ayin. It’s true that there are helpful instructions for getting around this issue, but I’m not a big fan of using superscripted, kerned, elevated, parentheses in place of actual alef and ayin transcription characters. They have standardized positions on the Unicode map, namely U+02BE and U+02BF. As long as they’re available, that’s what we ought to use.
But how do we get to those characters without having to use Insert-Symbol every time? I would suggest a modification of the AutoCorrect solution offered in the Tyndale instructions. In the video tutorial that accompanies this post I show you how to set up Autocorrect to use the key sequences “>>” for alef and “>>” for ayin.
For access to all information about the template see the central Dissertation Template post.
Once functionality for those those two Hebrew characters has been added, the Tyndale transliteration keyboard has very basic functionality for Ugaritic, Akkadian, and NW Semitic languages. However, you may find further limitations to the keyboard if you need to transliterate Egyptian text.
In that case, the problem becomes a little more thorny. For example, Unicode has not assigned a special position to Egyptian yod. Various scholars have their preferred substitute. There are also very few fonts that provide characters at the standard Unicode positions for Egyptian alef and ain. The one I know of right now is New Athena.
The good news is, if you’re using Egyptian, you’re probably more aware of those issues than I am and you know which glyphs you prefer for transliteration. In that case, you can pick your font and make changes to the default Transliteration style in the template. If you need help see the tutorial on creating a new sytle. It’s also easy, once you’ve seen the tutorial below, to add new characters to the AutoCorrect library in Word.
If you are interested in looking more into transliteration for biblical studies, you might look at some of these resources:
- My post on Unicode for biblical scholars
- BabelMap is one way of entering special characters of all kinds that’s easier to use than Symbol insert in Word. But it’s also handy if you’re looking for fonts that support certain characters or Unicode blocks. It also supplies not quite up to date information on various fonts and links to their sites.
- I recommend using standard character positions whenever possible. Sometimes it’s not (there never will be an Egyptian yod) and then I suggest using alternate characters that are recognized by scholars. You can find that information out by searching the web or consulting academic resources.
- If you are looking to make your own keyboard layout try Keyman Developer from Tavultesoft. I haven’t tried it, but it looks interesting and the desktop keyboards at least have a trial period.
- And of course there’s always the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator.