As an example, the Hebrew word for if can be written in the English alphabet as ’im. What does the apostrophe represent here?

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    Come on, it's not that hard to do a little research: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – curiousdannii Aug 5 '16 at 14:53
  • Thanks for the reference, and you're right, I should have checked wikipedia. However, my question was more general. I was wondering if there was a general rule that means "the apostrophe does...", but it seems that may not be the case? – Michael Stachowsky Aug 5 '16 at 14:56
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    I'd guess that it indicates a glottal stop more often than not, but there would be hundreds of different transliteration schemes. – curiousdannii Aug 5 '16 at 14:57
  • It is often used in fiction (especially fantasy and science fiction, with invented languages and names) to give a quality of strangeness to the words it inhabits. This often results in apostrophes stuck in random locations, with no consistency. The result is an Apostropocalypse. – jlawler Aug 6 '16 at 14:43

Transliteration conventions are numerous, so there are many possible meanings.

Often apostrophe semi-formally represents some character that does not exist in the Latin alphabet. In some such cases apostrophe itself is an ASCII substitute for a transalphabetic character.

You can find the following uses:

From Cyrillic: soft sign ь

From Armenian, Georgian, Indic etc: aspiration of the preceding consonants p, t or k

From Semitic scripts: ayn, glottal stop

Across a few alphabets as in the Latin one, it is used to represent a preceding acute or grave accent or stress mark, and of course elision.

  • More generally : it depends entirely on the language and the transliteration scheme. no general rule. – mobileink Aug 6 '16 at 22:14
  • We can say that for the letter 'a' too in theory, but in practice there are more and less likely interpretations given a piece or set of data. – Adam Bittlingmayer Aug 7 '16 at 8:10
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    It's also used in the transliteration of Japanese to indicate an unexpected syllabic break: shinan (/ɕi.naɴ/, instruction, guidance) vs. shin'an (/ɕiɴ.aɴ/, novelty) – Eau qui dort Aug 8 '16 at 17:59

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