ISO 259

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ISO 259 is a series of international standards for the romanization of Hebrew characters into Latin characters, dating to 1984, with updated ISO 259-2 (a simplification, disregarding several vowel signs, 1994) and ISO 259-3 (Phonemic Conversion, 1999).

ISO 259[edit]

ISO 259, dating to 1984, is a transliteration of the Hebrew script, including the diacritical signs (niqqud) used for Biblical Hebrew.

ISO 259: Hebrew romanization
Hebrew א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כך ל מם נן ס ע פף צץ ק ר ש שׂ שׁ ת ׳
Latin ʾ b g d h w z y k l m n s ʿ p q r ś š t
Hebrew טַ טָ טֵ טֶ טִ טֹ טוֹ טֻ טוּ טְ חֲ חֳ חֱ
Latin a å e ȩ i o ŵ u ° ă ŏ

The dagesh (dot inside the letter) is always transcribed with an overdot: , ġ, ż, etc. The apostrophe (׳‎) in the table above is the Hebrew sign geresh used after some letters to write down non-Hebrew sounds: ג׳‎ [d͡ʒ], ז׳‎ [ʒ], צ׳‎ [t͡ʃ], etc.[1]

ISO 259-2[edit]

ISO 259-2 simplifies the diacritical signs for vowels of ISO 259, and is designed for Modern Hebrew.

ISO 259-2: Hebrew romanization – Simplified
Hebrew א ב בּ ג ד ה הּ ו ז ח ט י כך כּךּ ל מם נן ס ע פף פּףּ צץ ק ר ש שׂ שׁ ת ׳
Latin ʾ b g d h w z y k l m n s ʿ p q r ś š t '
Hebrew טַטָ טֵטֶ טִ טֹ טוֹ טֻ טוּ טְ חֲ חֳ חֱ
Latin a e i o ŵ u none a o e

The dagesh is not transcribed excepted in the indicated cases. The apostrophe (׳‎) in the table above is the Hebrew sign geresh used after some letters to write down non-Hebrew sounds.[1][2]

ISO 259-3[edit]

ISO 259-3 is Uzzi Ornan's romanization, which reached the stage of an ISO Final Draft (FDIS)[3] but not of a published International Standard (IS).[4] It is designed to deliver the common structure of the Hebrew word throughout the different dialects or pronunciation styles of Hebrew, in a way that it can be reconstructed into the original Hebrew characters by both man and machine.

It is neither a character-by-character transliteration nor a phonetic transcription of one pronunciation style of Hebrew, but is instead phonemic from the view point that all the different dialects and pronunciations of Hebrew through the generations can be regarded as different realizations of the same structure, and by predefined reading rules every pronunciation style can be directly derived from it.

ISO 259-3: Hebrew romanization – Phonemic
Hebrew א בבּ גגּ דדּ ה ו ז ח ט י כךכּ ל מם נן ס ע פףפּ צץ ק ר ש ת ג׳ ז׳ צ׳ שׂ
Latin ʾ or  ˀ b g d h w z y k l m n s ʿ or  ˁ p c q r š t ǧ ž č ś
Hebrew חֲטַטָטָה- חֱטֶטֵטֶה-‎ טֵה- טִטִי חֳטָטֹטוֹ טֻטוּ טֶיטֵי טְ
Latin a e i o u ei none

Each consonant character in the Hebrew script is converted into its unique Latin character. ISO 259-3 has five vowel characters, corresponding to the five vowel phonemes of Modern Hebrew: a, e, i, o, u. In addition there is a sixth sign for denoting the vowel /ej/ or /e/ that is written followed by ⟨י⟩ in common Hebrew spelling: ei.

The dagesh forte (gemination in Biblical Hebrew) is transcribed with a double consonant. Non-phonemic vowels are ignored, such as:

  • schwa טְ, which is however transcribed with an underscore (_) between two identical consonants in order to distinguish it from a geminate consonant: יְלָדִים [jeladim] "boys" = yladim, הַלְלוּיָהּ [halelujah] "Hallelujah" = hal_luyah,
  • "segolate" vowel (on the second to last consonant an unaccented vowel טֶ, which can also be the vowel חַ on some laryngeal consonants, or יִ, etc.) : גֹּלֶם [golem] "golem" = golm, צֹהַר [tsohar] "opening, window" = cohr,
  • "furtive" pataḥ חַ (an unaccented [a] sound before some final laryngeal consonants): רוּחַ [ʁuax] "breeze, spirit" = ruḥ, but ISO 259-3 also allows the transcription with a for non-linguistic purposes: ruaḥ.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Protokół 74. posiedzenia KSNG" [Record of the 74th meeting of KSNG] (PDF). KSNG (Commission on Standardization of Geographic Names outside Poland) (in Polish). 7 November 2012. .
  2. ^ ICCU (2009). "Appendice F: Traslitterazione o trascrizione di scritture diverse dall'alfabeto latino — 4. Ebraico". Regole italiane di catalogazione (REICAT) [Italian cataloguing rules] (PDF) (in Italian). pp. 359–360. ISBN 9788871071275. 
  3. ^ Kuzar, Ron (2001). "Canaanite alternatives — Canaanite linguistic discourse". Hebrew and Zionism: A Discourse Analytic Cultural Study. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 274–275. ISBN 3-11-016993-2. 
  4. ^ Search for ISO 259 on the ISO website.
  5. ^ ISO 259-3

See also[edit]