A Small Query: Scientific Transcription of Sanskrit

Herman Tull hwtull at MSN.COM
Wed Jan 12 04:43:01 UTC 2005

There is an interesting note on this in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit English Dictionary (p. xxx).  Apparently the debate on transliteration was heated, even leading to letters in the "Times."  MW notes that Sir Charles Trevelyan cleared away much of the confusion regarding transliteration in "his able minute, dated Calcutta, January, 1834."

In 1879, in his Introduction to the Sacred Books of the East (Vol. I), F. Max Mueller described in detail his proposal for a "Missionary Alphabet" (which he notes he first proposed in 1854).  The system uses some familiar diacriticals, but largely depends on italicized letters (italicized "k" for "c"; italicized "t" to represent retroflexion). Unfortunately, Madonell adopts the SBE system for his "Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary" (1924).

Oddly enough, though, Mueller's 1870 Sanskrit Grammar uses the "modern system" (with the exception of ch and chh for c and ch).

Herman Tull
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Christophe Vielle<mailto:vielle at ORI.UCL.AC.BE> 
  To: INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk<mailto:INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk> 
  Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 5:40 PM
  Subject: Re: A Small Query: Scientific Transcription of Sanskrit

  It is the Tenth Congress of Orientalists in 1894.
  See J. Burgess, "The Transliteration of Oriental Alphabets" in Actes du
  Dixième Congrès International des Orientalistes, session de Genève, 1894,
  second part, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1897, pp. 25-42.

  >Dear List Members,
  >Does anyone of you know when exactly and where the present transcription of
  >Sanskrit was introduced - to be uniformly used by indologists all over?
  >That with macrons over vovels, dots under to mark retroflexes, acute over s
  >to make it denote palatal sibilant, small circle under sonantal l and r.
  >Etc. I kind of remember that it was done at some International Congress -
  >in Paris?
  >Your help will be greatly appreciated.
  >Artur Karp
  >University of Warsaw
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  Dr. Christophe Vielle
  Centre d'Etudes de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud
  Institut orientaliste
  Place Blaise Pascal 1
  B - 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
  Tel. +32-(0)10-47 49 54 (office)/ -(0)2-640 62 66 (home)
  E-mail: vielle at ori.ucl.ac.be<mailto:vielle at ori.ucl.ac.be>

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