Unreversible Transliteration; and some new software

Dominik Wujastyk D.Wujastyk at ucl.ac.uk
Tue Mar 29 10:22:28 EST 1994

Regarding the au/ai, a-u/a-i question, the diphthong vowels are the most
common forms in Sanskrit by a very large margin, and should therefore be
the "unmarked" forms in any transliteration.  "au" and "ai" thus do very
well, as well as reflecting normal printed transliteration practice.

For the non-diphthong vowels, then, a mark needs to be chosen.

Since Frans Velthuis's 7-bit transliteration scheme is meant first and
foremost as an input system for TeX, it should be noted that a perfectly
valid markup for the non-dipththong vowels in that context is: a{}i, a{}u.
The intrusive "{}" braces have no effect on the output, bar the prevention
of the vowels being taken as diphthongs.  You get "a" next to "i", etc.,
with no space inserted.  (If you want space, the whole issue goes away:
just type "a i", etc.)

This markup seems as good as any other, to me, and it works today without
making modifications to anything.

Perhaps its disadvantage is that it doesn't refer implicitly to the normal
printed transliteration of adjacent non-diphthong vowels, which uses
diaeresis, if I am not mistaken.

But so what?  No 7-bit transcription of Indic languages is actually meant
for *reading*; the point is to have an accurate, reversible scheme which is
easy to input, and easy to exchange with colleagues.  We all have our
preferred systems of representation on screen and paper, which normally
involve converting the 7-bit scheme into either standard printed
transliteration, or an Indic script.

Finally, I should like to mention a couple of relevant software tools which
are about to appear.

A colleague has contacted me, announcing a file conversion filter which
turns the Velthuis transcription into CSX coding.  More details will follow.

Also, in connection with a Wellcome Institute project to create a Sinhalese
font, our consultant Yannis Haralambous has written a pre-processor for
Sinhalese *and numerous other South Asian scripts*.  Called Indica, this
pre-processor is planned to be a single drop-in replacement for Velthuis's
devnag, Ridgeway's tamilize, Hellingman's mm (Malayalam), and so forth, as
well as dealing with Sinhalese.  Indica is specified in LEX, and should
therefore be very portable to different computer architectures.
(Haralambous is also designing a Bengali font in METAFONT.  I believe that
all his fonts are also available as PS type1 fonts.)

Dominik Wujastyk           Phone (and voice messages): +44 71 611 8467
Wellcome Institute, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE.

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