This paper examines a romanization scheme developed by linguist Uzzi Ornan that has not been considered for implementation in libraries. Phonemic conversion of Hebrew neither uses transliteration nor transcription strategies but reconstructs the theoretical structure of the original Hebrew word based on its phonemes. The article describes this scheme and its benefits, which include full coverage of all historical periods and script modes of Hebrew, and full reversibility, complete with an online interface that enables automatic conversion. The article compares the suggested phonemic conversion scheme with the ALA/LC Romanization of Hebrew and provides a history of previously attempted reversal schemes.

Author Biography & Related Information

Uzzi Ornan (born 1923) is a professor of Hebrew linguistics and natural language processing at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, and a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. In 1944, Ornan was detained in a British detention camp in Eritrea, where he taught Hebrew grammar to his fellow detainees from Erets Israel. In 1947, still in the camp, he published his Grammar of Mouth and Ear. After the detainees were freed in 1948 the book was reprinted in abridged edition several times in Israel. In 2016, Ornan completed a thoroughly revised edition of the book, compatible with current progress of linguistics (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press). Associated with the Canaanite movement, Ornan established the League against Religious Coercion (1950) and has been active in the separation of church and state movement in Israel ever since. In recent years, Ornan has been chairing the nonprofit “I am Israeli”, an organization that calls for recognizing all Israeli citizens as sharing an all-inclusive Israeli nationality.

Rachel Leket-Mor is the Jewish Studies librarian at Arizona State University Libraries. In her previous career as a Hebrew copy editor, she engaged with questions of language conversion on a regular basis in the course of her work, applying a variety of publisher-supplied language conversion schemes, both from Hebrew into Latin characters and from foreign languages into Hebrew characters.


Changes made on p. 60 and p. 62 to reflect the online availability of the Ornan Hebrew Parser (OHP) application.

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