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Yiddish hyphenation

Scripts to syllabify and hyphenate Yiddish text:

  1. yiddish_syllable_boundaries.py: input is a text file containing Yiddish words, written in the Yiddish alphabet according to YIVO guidelines, one word per line; output is a text file of the same structure, but with the syllable boundaries in each word marked off (בי-כל)

  2. yiddish_hyphenation_latex.py input is a text file containing Yiddish sentences/paragraphs (so this can be an article, chapter, book, etc.); output is a .tex file of hyphenated words, which can be included directly in the preamble of a LaTeX document. The list of words comes from the input file, not from a dictionary.

Syllabification is phonemic, based on either (i) the Maximum Onset Principle, using the attested syllable onset clusters listed in Jacobs 2005 (pp. 115-7), or (ii) the syllabification algorithm of Yankev Viler (Jacobs 2005:125).

Hyphenation is based on the recommendations published in the Standardized Yiddish Orthography (YIVO; paragraph 47), stating that hyphens should be inserted between prefixes/particles and roots but otherwise should follow syllable boundaries (whether acc. to the Maximum Onset Principle or Viler's algorithm, or something else, is not clear). These hyphenation rules have been supplemented by a few common-sense constraints (from discussion between Isaac L. Bleaman and Jamie Conway): (i) no word may have just a single letter (+ diacritic) before the first hyphen; (ii) no word may end in two or fewer characters (+ diacritics); (iii) if a word contains a character that signifies it comes from loshn-koydesh (בֿחכּשׂתּת), don't do any hyphenation at all.

Known problems, which require a list of exceptions to fix:

  • Words of Hebrew/Aramaic (loshn-koydesh) origin. It's not clear how best to hyphenate these in all cases, and the out-of-the-box syllabification algorithm is poor because these words are not spelled phonemically. As a result, we don't hyphenate any words that are clearly from loshn-koydesh based on the presence of certain characters: בֿחכּשׂתּת. But even this skips over l"k words that don't have such characters.
  • More to come. Please send me your feedback! I might produce an exception list myself if I have time and if there's interest.

Isaac L. Bleaman
University of California, Berkeley
bleaman@berkeley.edu

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