Skip to content

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.

Last active June 3, 2024 17:36
Show Gist options
  • Save bdenckla/f04699f2a9c4eccd3220751fdb233722 to your computer and use it in GitHub Desktop.
Save bdenckla/f04699f2a9c4eccd3220751fdb233722 to your computer and use it in GitHub Desktop.
A Review of the ArtScroll Transliterated Linear Siddur (Ashkenaz)

A Review of the ArtScroll Transliterated Linear Siddur (Ashkenaz)

This is a review of the ArtScroll Transliterated Linear Siddur - Weekday - Seif Edition (Ashkenaz). This review focuses on the siddur’s transliteration. This review is similar in spirit to my review of Hebrew World’s Phonetic Bible.

A brief summary of my review of ArtScroll’s work is as follows: this siddur provides insight into a dialect of Hebrew that may be unfamiliar to many readers, but its transliteration is somewhat inconsistent. It is hard to produce consistent transliterations without automation or a lot of proofreading labor, neither of which seems to have been deployed here.

We will use the siddur’s Ten Commandments (pages 290–293) as a source of examples. These are the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 (in Parashat Yitro), not the Ten Commandments of Deuteronomy 5 (in Parashat Vaʾetḥanan). We assume that this is a reasonable sample of the rest of the siddur, but we acknowledge that this might not be true.

Artscroll does not number the verses of this passage. It only numbers the Commandments. Nonetheless, below I do refer to verse numbers, using a numbering that appears in many but far from all publications. To see the verse numbering I use, see any edition of MAM using MAM’s native verse numbering, such as MAM with doc or Wikisource MAM. (Not all editions of MAM use MAM’s native verse numbering.)

Artscroll includes the introduction to the Ten Commandments (20:1) before it starts with the Ten Commandments proper. The first word of the intro gives us a feel for the transliteration style, and also already shows some inconsistencies.

VAIDABER (וַיְדַבֵּר)

  • All-caps are used for the first word of each section. (There are 11 sections: this intro is a section, and each Commandment is a section.)
  • Syllables are not separated.
  • Stress is not indicated. (When stress is nonfinal, it is indicated over in the accompanying pointed Hebrew, borrowing the symbol for meteg/silluq.)
  • Cantillation does not appear on the accompanying pointed Hebrew (e.g. no munaḥ appears on וַיְדַבֵּר). Nonetheless, from the way words are pointed (and transliterated!) later in the passage, we can see that the taḥton rather than ʿelyon cantillation is implied.
  • The letter "i" is used for yod here. Presumably, this is to avoid "ay" because "ay" is dedicated to tsere.
  • In this word, the letter "e" rather than the pair "ay" is (accidentally?) used for tsere. The pair "ay" is normally how tsere is transliterated in this system. As such, I would have expected VAIDABAYR not VAIDABER. (Although "ay" for tsere has its merits, we shall see that it causes a lot of problems, too.)
  • Doubling (gemination) is not transliterated. We can see this because the dagesh in the bet of the source Hebrew word (וַיְדַבֵּר) is widely agreed to be a dagesh ḥazaq. E.g. a fussier (or if you prefer, more technical) transliteration might have VAIDABBER here rather than simply VAIDABER.

Elōhim (אֱלֹהִים)

  • The initial "E" is capitalized, presumably to mimic the capitalization of proper nouns in English and other Roman-alphabet languages.
  • An "o" with a macron (ō) is used for the ḥolam vowel. This is an important distinction since plain "o" is used for qamats.
  • Consonantal alef is not transliterated. E.g. a fussier (or if you prefer, more technical) transliteration might have ’Elōhim or ʾElōhim here rather than simply Elōhim.

es (אֵת)

  • An "s" is used for tav rafeh, i.e. for tav without dagesh. This "s" for tav rafeh and the "o" for qamats are the most distinctive aspects of this transliteration. Or rather, they are the most distinctive aspects of the dialect of Hebrew that this transliteration targets.
  • An "e" rather than "ay" is (accidentally?) used for tsere, again, as in VAIDABER. Compare with "ays asher yiso" for אֵת אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׂא in verse 6.

kol had’vorim (כָּל הַדְּֿבָרִים)

  • A distinguished qamats qatan shape is not needed in the pointed Hebrew, since all cases of qamats have the same sound in this dialect! (E.g. כָּל here.)
  • Apostrophe is used for mobile sheva, as we can see in had’vorim. The symbol for rafeh (an above-bar) is borrowed to mark a sheva as mobile in the pointed Hebrew, as we can see in הַדְּֿבָרִים.
  • Maqaf appears in neither the transliteration nor the pointed Hebrew, as we can see in "kol had’vorim" and כָּל הַדְּֿבָרִים, since the fully-pointed chanted word is כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים.

ho-ayle (הָאֵֽלֶּה)

  • The symbol for meteg/silluq is borrowed to indicate nonfinal stress in the pointed Hebrew, as we can see in הָאֵֽלֶּה.
  • A dash is used to set off a syllable starting with consonantal alef from the preceding syllable, even though alef itself is untransliterated. Or, if you like, non-initial consonantal alef is transliterated as a dash.

lay-mōr (לֵאמֹר)

  • A dash separates "lay" and "mōr", for reasons I don’t understand.
    • The later words shay-shes, ay-shes, and vai-kad’shay-hu seem to follow this (confusing) pattern of dash after "ay".
    • Words that seem to not follow this pattern include ho-ayle (already seen), and the later words hotzaysicho, achayrim, shilayshim, bayrach, and shayshes. That last one, shayshes, directly contradicts the shay-shes transliteration of a previous instance of the same pointed Hebrew word.

ONOCHI (אָנֹכִי)

  • All-caps are used, since we are starting a section (Commandment 1) (verse 2).
  • The digraph "ch" is used for khaf (kaf rafeh). It is also used for ḥet, as in the later word achayrim.
  • A macron seems missing from the "o" representing the ḥolam, i.e. I would have expected ONŌCHI.
    • In these Ten Commandments, I find 17 other such errors of a missing macron: hotzaysicho, lo (4×), Elohecho, avon, avos, sh’mo, yom (3×), l’kad’sho, ta-avod, sach-mod (2×) and v’chol.
    • I suspect this transliteration was made by hand, so it is not surprising to find many such errors.

Adōnoy (יְהֹוָה)

  • Initial capital "A" is used, according to the policy we’ve already seen for proper nouns.
  • The pair "oy" is used for the qamats-yod diphthong.
  • This is intended for a Jewish audience, so of course we see the standard euphemistic qere (a special kind of perpetual qere) appear in the transliteration. I mention this because I have seen many Christian-oriented transliterations that (attempt to) vocalize the tetragrammaton. Personally, I find such vocalizations a bit jarring.

Elōhecho asher hotzaysicho may-eretz mitzra-yim

  • Pointed Hebrew is אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִֽיךָ מֵאֶֽרֶץ מִצְרַֽיִם.
  • The first four words, "Elōhecho asher hotzaysicho may-eretz", follow patterns we have already discussed.
  • A dash is used to show the syllable boundary in what would otherwise be an ambiguous "ay" in mitzra-yim.
    • We also see this later, in shoma-yim (2×), ma-yim, and va-yonach.
    • Although "ay" for tsere has its merits, perhaps a single letter with a diacritic would have been a better choice, such as "e" with a macron (ē). Using "ē" or similar would avoid the need to introduce dashes to solve problems that "ay" causes.
    • On the other hand, there is merit to a transliteration like ArtScroll’s that minimizes diacritics. Artscroll uses only a macron, and only above "o" (ō).


I title this section with an ellipsis because at this point we’ll stop going word-for-word and just skip around to words we find notable.

u-vin’cho (וּבִנְֿךָ) (v. 9)

  • The sheva under the nun is not widely agreed to be mobile, as it is here: I would have expected no apostrophe, i.e. u-vincho.
  • A dash follows this word’s initial shuruq but uvitecho, the very next word, seems to defy that pattern. I find the dash in i-mecho (v. 11) similarly puzzling.

t’muna, avos, sir-tzach (תְּֿמוּנָה, אָבֹת, תִרְצָח)

  • (vv. 3, 4 & 12)
  • Why do these cases of qamats get "a" but all others get "o"?
  • The word avos, in addition to its "a" being surprising ("o" expected), is also one of the 16 words missing a macron over its "o", i.e. ovōs is expected.
  • The dash in the word sir-tzach is perhaps to make it clear that "tz" is a digraph, not two separate letters.
    • I.e. the dash is perhaps to make it clear that the syllables are not considered to be sirt-zach.
    • If this is the reason for the dash before "tz", then it is unclear why hotzaysicho was not spelled ho-tzaysicho (to distinguish from hot-zaysicho).

b’ray-acho (בְרֵעֲךָ) (v. 12)

The "b" is surprising since the bet has no dagesh, i.e. it is a vet. A "v" is expected, i.e. v’ray-acho is expected.

kol (כָל) (v. 9)

The "k" is surprising since the kaf has no dagesh, i.e. it is a khaf. The digraph "ch" is expected, i.e. chol is expected.

adōnoi (v. 10)

The pair "oi" is surprising for the qamats-yod diphthong. The pair "oy" is expected, i.e. adōnoy is expected.


As I said at the start, this siddur provides insight into a dialect of Hebrew that may be unfamiliar to many readers, but its transliteration is somewhat inconsistent.

If you’re interested in seeing a different approach to transliteration of the Yitro Decalogue, targeting a different dialect of Hebrew, see my Jacobson-style transliteration of the Al-Hatorah edition of MAM. (That edition of MAM forms the core of the Al-Hatorah Mikraot Gedolot). (By "Jacobson-style", I mean the style laid out in Chanting the Hebrew Bible, Second Edition: The Art of Cantillation.)

Here is an Ashkenazic Jacobson-style transliteration of the Yitro Decalogue, which is perhaps more relevant in this context.

If you’d like to experiment with an interactive ArtScroll-emulating transliterator, try the ArtScroll setting of the transliterator at "A Little Hebrew".

If you’d like to see the pointed Hebrew for the taḥton cantillation of the Yitro Decalogue, see the one on Wikisource MAM.

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment