What is Transliteration?

Transliteration which is done systematically is a system of writing converted to another.  Most systems of transliteration are one to one. This can be a straight translation such as the Latin transliteration of “Ελληνική Δημοκρατία”, which means ‘Hellenic Republic’, or “Ellēnikḗ Dēmokratía”.

Transliteration dismisses sounds but concentrates on characters, accurately and without any ambiguity.

Transliteration differs from transcription, which is responsible for mapping a language’s sounds into a written form. If the sounds and letters are similar in two languages, a transliteration could closely resemble a transcription.

For the majority of script pairs, there may be several transliteration systems.

Partial transliteration

Some transliterations are partial such as when a source word is transliterated by firstly finding all possible suffix and prefix segments based on the source word’s letters. Each of the segments, when combined, creates a list of possible partial transliterations. A partial transliteration may include just a prefix or just suffix segments. One example of a “partial transliteration” is the word “bishop” from the Anglo-Saxon word “biscep” and, in Greek, “episkopos.”   “Deacon”, is transliterated partially from “diakonos” a Greek word.

Transliteration difficulties

A transliteration problem can be represented by the voiceless uvular plosive which is in use in other languages, including Arabic. Its correct pronunciation is the English [k], but the tongue makes all its contact on the uvula and not on the soft palate. Pronunciation between different languages is not the same and even in different dialects of a language. The consonant is transliterated sometimes into “g”, and other times “k”, and “q” in English .A further example is “Х” (kha) a Russian letter which has a similar pronunciation to the “j” in Spanish. Its pronunciation is like the voiceless velar fricative /x/, similar to the way the Scottish pronounce ⟨ch⟩ in “loch”. This type of sound is not found in most English, forms and kh is frequently transliterated into a form like Nikita Khrushchev. Some languages possess phonemic sounds, like click consonants, which do not resemble any phoneme in the language to be transliterated into.

The examples above give some idea of the richness of each language. Certainly, if you are looking for a German English translator or an English German translator you will want ne who understands the nuances of transliteration.