5

There seems to be a difference between Hebrew and Arabic, for example.

Here's a test you can do in Notepad:

  1. Switch the text direction to right-to-left (it's one of the context menu options)
  2. Paste (sorry, it's jibberish) מ 2000-2013 ה
  3. Observe that the year range is shown left-to-right.
  4. Paste (ditto as for Hebrew) ة 2000-2013 م
  5. Observe that the range direction is right-to-left.

If you use an en-dash instead of the hyphen in step 2, then the range will be formatted as in step 4.

The thing is, the en-dash is the preferred symbol for ranges. Is this just a common bug?

A friend who is a native Hebrew speaker told me that the number range looks weird when it's formatted right-to-left, but I haven't been able to find any official info online about this.

The Notepad test doesn't necessarily confirm that ranges should be formatted left-to-right in Hebrew, only that the hyphen has a different effect on number ranges in the Arabic and the Hebrew contexts.

What's the official word?

  • 3
    Welcome to the wonderful world of computerized bidirectional text. Unicode provides a standard algorithm for bidi text and I believe I've read that Microsoft prefers to use their own algorithm. Niether are perfect. You may get different results on different OSes and those might not match what is considered orthographically correct for those languages / writing systems. – hippietrail Jan 1 '14 at 2:03
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    @hippietrail, yes, the further away a language is from English, the more obvious it becomes that programmers make a lot of assumptions. Still wondering about what's considered orthographically correct for Hebrew. – Tatiana Racheva Aug 2 '15 at 2:54
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According to the Academy of Hebrew Language, Hebrew numeric ranges should be written right-to-left.

http://hebrew-academy.org.il/topic/hahlatot/punctuation/#target-3447

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  • The fun thing is that in the original untranslated text, the symbol used to separate the two dates is – (the en-dash), which results in the right-to-left order in my Notepad example. The hyphen still results in left-to-right order. Weird stuff. – Tatiana Racheva Jul 13 '17 at 22:25
2

I'm a native Hebrew speaker and I disagree with your friend: ranges are usually written right to left, e.g. 2013-2000. Here's an example from Wikipedia. It does look strange from an English speaker's perspective, but that's the convention.

  • 1
    @hippietrail Sorry, I'm the one who was confused; I meant right to left. Corrected now. – TKR Jan 2 '14 at 3:10
  • What if it were not a date range, such as in this context: "Bin B contains items numbered 12-24." – Tatiana Racheva Jan 4 '14 at 19:45
  • I mean, the regular hyphen definitely causes the range to be formatted left-to-right in the Hebrew context, on Windows, as I described in my original post. – Tatiana Racheva Jan 4 '14 at 19:46
  • Also, TKR, I see that many agree with you. I looked at many Wikipedia examples, and some other examples, too. Wikipedia isn't good enough evidence, though, because I saw things written both ways, and nobody is using the correct en-dash, anyways. In the example you give, they're surrounding the hyphen separating the years with spaces (which is causing the range to be displayed right-to-left), which is, again, not the "proper" way to format ranges. I'm looking for an official word on this, such as a textbook or examples in a professionally published book. – Tatiana Racheva Jan 4 '14 at 19:52
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    @TKR On the contrary, in the provided article ranges are written left-to-right, e.g. 1940-1945 – Ivan Balashov Jul 31 '15 at 7:56
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I am not a native speaker, but I have studied Hebrew (albeit) Biblical Hebrew, but as far as I know the right to left syntax of a Hebrew sentence includes numerical sets. Just my opinion.

  • OK, that doesn't really help in my search for an official answer. – Tatiana Racheva Jan 11 '14 at 16:57
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    Numbers in the biblical text are written out in words. The verse numbers are indicated with letters of the alphabet, written right to left with the highest digits first. You will not find the Arabic/Indian numerals anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. – fdb Aug 24 '16 at 9:52

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