[INDOLOGY] CORRECTION Re: ISO transliteration standard for devanagari (Harry Spier)

Harry Spier hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com
Sun Jun 19 19:37:14 UTC 2016

On Sun, Jun 19, 2016 at 1:51 PM, C.A. Formigatti <caf57 at cam.ac.uk> wrote: I
would use the ISO-15919 transliteration system only when I edit a text.
Preparing a diplomatic transliteration of a manuscript is something

Harry Spier wrote:

To my mind the problem is that if you can't use a transliteration standard
to prepare a diplomatic transliteration then there is something wrong with
that transliteration standard.  Surely thats the purpose of a
transliteration standard. Note that the  rule for normalizing anusvaras to
class nasals is a "required rule" and not a recommendation or option.  As
you pointed out the normalization of nasals is bad practice for
transcribing manuscripts.  The normalization of nasals  was pointed out as
a problem in editing manuscripts about 20 years ago on this list:


But by making the normalization of nasals a required practice for sanskrit
the standard is saying this is good practice.


Harry Spier

I have just been going through the ISO standard for transliteration of
Devanagari and related Indic scripts ISO-15919 and I found something quite

Note the following rule quoted exactly  from the standard is a requirement
not an option. The rule includes an example from Sanskrit.

8.1 Special requirements
Rule 3.

In modern vernaculars, anusvara before a stop or class nasal shall be
transliterated as the corresponding class nasal; in other languages,
anusvara before a stop or class nasal shall be transliterated as
thecorresponding class nasal unless it arises from sandhi (euphonic
combination) of final m with that consonant.

EXAMPLE 1 Sanskrit संग is transliterated as saṁga when it represents the
noun formed from sam + root gam, but as saṅga when it represents the noun
derived from the root sañj

That means in many cases  if you transliterated a manuscript exactly as it
was keeping all anusvaras as anusvaras you would not be following the ISO
standard for transliteration.  It also seems to me the standard is crossing
the line from transliteration into "interpretation".

I'm somewhat surprised this found its way into the standard.

Harry Spier

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