Word splitting & hyphenation conventions in roman transliteration

John Smith jds10 at CUS.CAM.AC.UK
Mon Feb 8 09:46:44 UTC 1999

On Sun, 7 Feb 1999, harry spier wrote:

> Are there guidelines or accepted standards among Sanskritists for the
> splitting of sanskrit sentences and the use of hyphenation in roman
> transliteration.  In examining nine different editions of the Bhagavad
> Geeta, each one split the words in the sentences differently, and each
> one used hyphenation differently.  None mirrored the accompanying
> devanagari script without additional breaks in the sentence.  Any
> guidelines I could receive from professional Sanskritists would be
> greatly appreciated.

The convention in Roman is the same as in Devanagari etc.: put spaces
between words where it is possible to do so. However, the fundamental
differences between the Indian scripts and Roman mean that the results are
not the same in both cases. In Nagari, if a word ends in a consonant
(excluding visarga and anusvara), it must be written joined up to the next
word; in Roman this is not the case. So AsId rAjA appears in Nagari as one
"word", in Roman as two. In Roman the only joined-up words are ones where
vowel sandhi has fused two vowels into one: tathaiva etc.

Note that this practice results in some unpronounceable words being
written separately in Roman: tad dhy asti, tat tv asti etc.

Note also that if it is desired to convert from a Roman-style version to a
Nagari-style version, all that is needed is to remove every space
following a consonant. The reverse conversion, however, cannot be done

Hyphenation is sometimes used as a guide to compound-formation, but this
is generally restricted to language manuals and the like: it is not normal
to hyphenate Sanskrit texts in Roman.

John Smith

Dr J. D. Smith                *  jds10 at cam.ac.uk
Faculty of Oriental Studies   *  Tel. 01223 335140 (Switchboard 01223 335106)
Sidgwick Avenue               *  Fax  01223 335110
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