Kyoto-Harvard transliteration

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sun Aug 3 09:37:31 EDT 2008

Dear All,

it is Summer and the weekend now, so a lazy note of correction:

Colleagues have been referring, since 1990, to our 7-bit  
transliteration for Sanskrit as Harvard-Kyoto (a A, i,  I ...,  etc.).

But the laws of language do not trump the (perceived) pre-eminence of  
In compounds, the shorter member precedes the longer one. This is  
Behaghel's 19th century 'law of growing members' (Gesetz der  
wachsenden Glieder).

Here we have a problem as both Kyoto and Harvard have two syllables.  
(Something like the erstwhile Baltimore-Washington or Washington- 
Baltimore airport)

However, as Kyoto  is metrically shorter (kyoo-to, 2+ 1) than Harvard  
(har-vard, 2+ 2), and thus also has less letters, Kyoto takes  
precedence. In addition, the system was devised at Kyoto in 1990.

In short, call it the "Kyoto-Harvard" system!

To be honest, it was based, to a large degree, on that created by  
Andrea van Arkel at Leiden in 1984, when our department was the first  
there to use a PC (together with Mathematics) for the input of the  
Paippalada Samhita of the Atharvaveda.

Have a good Summer!


Michael Witzel
witzel at

Dept. of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street
Cambridge MA 02138, USA

phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295 (voice & messages), 496 8570, fax 617 - 496  
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990

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