Transliteration Standards

David R. Israel davidi at MAIL.WIZARD.NET
Fri Nov 21 16:43:20 UTC 1997


am here forwarding this post, for poss. interest (some might already
be well acquainted with what sounds like a large collective effort
toward global standardization of many transliteration systems?)

You'll note this post ultimately comes from Arabic-Info [?]
(via the Arabic-L list, via the Adabiyat listserv, via moi)

Note the existance (as described below) of:
 WG12: Transliteration of Indic scripts

Regarding the interesting chart of world script systems, a few notes.

Oddly, they've omitted Urdu (which would of course fall under the
Perso-Arabic line).  As for the large array of language scripts
traced to "BRAHMI" script, -- including Devanagari as well as a
variety of other Indic scripts (including Tamil & Telugu) -- is this
Brahmi some sort of proto-Sanskrit, or what? -- and are those So.
Indian lang. scripts really tracable to common roots along with Skt.?

Anyway, in case this isn't familiar, thought it could prove of some
interest to many here . . .


------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Fri, 21 Nov 1997 11:57:58 -0500
Reply-to:      "Adabiyat: Middle Eastern Literary Traditions"
From:          "Franklin D. Lewis" <flewis at EMORY.EDU>
Subject:       Arabo-Persian Transliteration Standards (fwd)

>From the Arabic-L list.  This describes an email discussion for
transliteration issues and an on-going discussion on the matter of
Perso-Arabic script by the International Organization for
Standardization's Transliteration committee.   --FL
Date: 19 Nov 1997 From: John Clews <Converse at>
(reposted from Arabic-Info) Subject: Transliteration Standards

Transliteration standards for Arabic and Perso-Arabic script

I am the chair of the International Organization for Standardization
subcommittee responsible for transliteration (ISO/TC46/SC2: Conversion
of Written Languages). This met from 12-14 May 1997 at the British
Standards Institution in Chiswick, London, to review international
standards in this area - both already published and under development.

One of the points that was brought to my attention several times,
particularly in Working Group 11: Transliteration of Perso-Arabic
script, was the lack of participation from organisations in Arabic
countries (Iran is the only country currently involved outside of
Europe), and also from universities with strong Arabic departments and
library collections.

I am interested in any participation that you or any of your
colleagues may be able to undertake, either in meetings or
electronically, given your own necessary involvment in the
multilingual use of computers.

Despite computer standards like ISO/IEC 10646 and Unicode, there will
always be a need for transliteration as long as people do not have the
same level of competence in all scripts besides the script used in
their mother-tongue, and may have a need to deal with these languages,
or when they have to deal with mechanical or computerised equipment
which does not provide all the scripts of characters that they need.

The secretary (Evangelos Melagrakis from Greece) and I intend to make
transliteration and ISO/TC46/SC2 far more visible and far more
relevant to end users than it has been in the past. To enable this, an
electronic mailing list for ISO/TC46/SC2 (tc46sc2 at and an
associated Web site (located at has now been set
up by ELOT (the Greek national standards body). We hope this list will
attract researchers and scientists who can add useful information
which might assist in developing standards on the Conversion of
Written Languages.

Scope of transliteration work in ISO/TC46/SC2's working groups.

[WG1:] Transliteration of Cyrillic (work now combined with that of
WG5) [WG2:] Transliteration of Arabic (work now combined with that of
 WG3:  Transliteration of Hebrew
 WG4:  Transliteration of Korean
 WG5:  Transliteration of Greek, Armenian, Georgian and Cyrillic
 WG6:  Transliteration of Chinese
 WG7:  Transliteration of Japanese
 WG8:  Transliteration and computers
 WG9:  Transliteration of Thai
 WG10: Transliteration of Mongolian
 WG11: Transliteration of Perso-Arabic script
 WG12: Transliteration of Indic scripts


NB: to avoid distortion, resize your viewer/printer if the word
"origins" in the above line is not at the end of a line, and view or
print with a mono-spaced (non-proportional font).

   Latin   Cyrillic                Devanagari - - - Tibetan
      \     /                   /  Gujarati
       \   / - Armenian        /   Bengali          _ Mongolian
        \ /                   /    Gurumukhi       /
       Greek - Georgian      /     Oriya       SOGDIAN      Chinese
         |                  /                  SCRIPT      /
         |                 /       Telugu                 /
     PHOENICIAN         BRAHMI - - Kannada     IDEOGRAPHIC - Japanese
    /  SCRIPT  \        SCRIPT     Malayalam      SCRIPT  \
   /     |      \          \       Tamil                   \
Hebrew   |      Arabic      \                               Korean
         |        \          \ - - Sinhala
         |                    \
         |          \          \ _ Burmese
         |                      \  Khmer
         |            \          \
      Ethiopic     Divehi         \ _ Thai
     (Ethiopia,   (Maldives)          Lao

Key: Scripts shown in CAPS are the historical source script for other
scripts shown, now essentially superseded. These scripts are used in
over 99% of the worlds official languages shown in the rest of the
diagram. Scripts used in non-official languages, and historical
scripts, are not shown above.

The tc46sc2 at list on transliteration

There are quite a few with an interest in transliteration in library
catalogues on the list, but there are other potential users of
transliteration too.

One major advantage of email is the ability to involve far more
people in the development of a common purpose than were involved
before, to get user feedback, and expert opinion from various
sources. There are now over 270 subscribers to tc46sc2 at, from
43 countries and territories, providing a global interest group in
this area, covering all the scripts shown above.

Subscribing to the mailing list for ISO/TC46/SC2

In order to join the list you should be actively involved in using
transliteration systems, or in developing transliteration systems, and
should be prepared to contribute to the list from time to time.

If you wish to join the list, send an email to

        majordomo at

with this message in the body of the text:

        subscribe tc46sc2 your at email.address

(but with your real email address replacing the string
your at email.address).

To find out further commands you can use, send the command "help" as
the text of an email either to tc46sc2-request at or to:
majordomo at To unsubscribe, send the command "unsubscribe"
instead, omitting the "quotes" marks in both cases. This will tell you
how to obtain copies of past messages etc., and other useful features.

Once you are subscribed, you can send messages to tc46sc2 at and
receive messages from other members of the list. Please reply where
possible to the list as a whole, so that all can benefit: using the
Group Reply function (pressing G on some email software) is the
simplest way to achieve this.

Other members will also be interested to see who else is joining the
list, so it is useful to send a brief introduction (say, one or two
short paragraphs) to tc46sc2 at at the outset, saying what
languages, scripts and other things you are involved in. That is the
most likely way to stimulate others to write on the subjects you are
interested in!

I look forward to seeing new participants on this list. Please feel
free to forward this to anyone else who may be interested in
transliteration standardisation issues, and to send any queries about
the list to me.

                             Yours sincerely

                     John Clews and Evangelos Melagrakis

(Chair & Secretary of ISO/TC46/SC2: Conversion of Written Languages)

J. Clews, SESAME, 8 Avenue Road, Harrogate, HG2 7PG, England
Email: Converse at;   tel: +44 (0) 1423 888 432

E. Melagrakis, ELOT, 313 Acharnon Str., GR-111 45 Athens, Greece
Email: eem at                           tel: +30 1 201 9890

---- End of Arabic-L: 19 Nov 1997

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