Is there a way in LuaLaTeX (second best would be XeTeX) to finetune the positioning of Hebrew vowel signs? For some fonts if both vowels and cantillation marks are present, they might overlap, which should be avoided. I would need something similar as \skew in plain LaTeX.

  • I think this is something that the font should take care of, rather than TeX. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:16
  • @brian-ammon Indeed, but sometimes it doesn't and I need to kludge Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 14:33
  • 2
    as always, a test document would help (and also in this case spell out which are the vowels and where you want them moved to...) Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


Sure, you can do this. But first make sure:

  1. You can't use a better font
  2. You have correctly set up your font

Consider this example which only uses the SBL BibLit font, but with different open type settings. The correct output is only obtained when fontspec is passed Script=Hebrew,Contextuals=Alternate.

If you leave out Contextuals=Alternate, the furtive patah is wrong. If you leave out Script=Hebrew, everything is completely messed up.

But frankly, I would use a better font rather than manually moving things.

Note: I'd be surprised if the manually constructed word copies and pastes correctly.


\newfontfamily\sblgood{SBL BibLit}[Script=Hebrew,Contextuals=Alternate]
\newfontfamily\sblhalfbaked{SBL BibLit}[Script=Hebrew]
\newfontfamily\sblbad{SBL BibLit}
\textdir TRT \pardir TRT



וְר֣וּח\kern -4.75pt  ַ


ו\kern -2pt  ְ\kern 2pt
ר\kern -3.5pt  ֣\kern 3.5pt
ו\kern -2pt\lower 4pt\hbox{ ֺ}\kern -0.5pt
ח\kern -4.75pt  ַ

enter image description here

  • Perfect! Sometimes you need it if you use rafe or similar stuff even with SBL Hebrew font. Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 17:45
  • @Kazibácsi, do you have an example word that renders wrong with SBL Hebrew (and reference from BHS)? xetex uses a better font shaping library than luatex, so that might be an issue. Or could actually be a bug in either font or shaping library that should be fixed. As far as I know, SBL Hebrew is meant to reliably be able to produce everything in the BHS. Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 23:31
  • How can I know that I should add Contextuals=Alternate? And why isn't it default?
    – Zvika
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 8:22
  • @Zvika, Perhaps you could ask a new question (with a good MWE for people to test). I can't remember exactly how I discovered I needed to use Contextuals=Alternate. Perhaps just by trial and error and looking at what OpenType features the font supports. xetex renders וְר֣וּחַ correctly without Contextuals=Alternate. But I'm not sure if this is because xetex turns this feature on by default or because it's font rendering of complex scripts is superior to luatex. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 14:00

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