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

Harry Spier hspier.muktabodha at gmail.com
Mon Jun 20 19:35:24 UTC 2016

Dear Camillo,
Thank you for your comments.  As you pointed out the standard is not
available on-line and needs to be purchased.  It is $170.00 US and so I
doubt very many sanskritists will purchase it.

Thank you,
Harry Spier

On Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 6:04 AM, C.A. Formigatti <caf57 at cam.ac.uk> wrote:

> Dear Harry,
> I'm not entirely sure that I made my point clear. I tried and have a look
> at the ISO-15919 standard online and realized I'd have to buy it to read
> the complete version. I have no intention in the foreseeable future to buy
> the whole ISO-15919 standard and read it through, but I guess it doesn't
> deal entensively with manuscript transcription. Any standard can be
> improved and I am sure that the ISO-15919 does not provide any clue as to
> how to transliterate the countless symbols that occur in South Asian
> manuscripts. You can get a fair idea of how many and how different they are
> in the various South Asian manuscript traditions by browsing Katrin
> Einicke's Korrektur, Differenzierung und Abkürzung in indischen Inschriften
> und Handschriften, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2009 (and in my personal
> experience, this work covers only a part of the symbols actually used in
> Sanskrit manuscripts). I also think that the ISO-15919 cannot possibly be
> exhaustive and all-encompassing, because it cannot cover all possible aims
> of transcription.
> I am quoting and pasting the remarks provided by Prof. Witzel in the
> useful link you provided:
> ''The question is which ``norm`` to follow.''
> Exactly this is the point. Often we normalize and bluntly follow Paninian
> rules even for Sanskrit texts that sometimes were clearly composed and
> written in non-Paninian Sanskrit.
> ''Prof.  v. Simson wrote:
>> But since the scribes are not consistent in their use of sandhi, I
>>>>> think it is best to standardize the orthography and to follow Panini's
> rules as far as sandhi is concerned. This makes it also easier for the
> user of your edition. You may describe the actual practice of the scribes
> in your introduction or you can give the writings of the manuscripts in
> the critical apparatus. <<<''
> Alas, sometimes scribes solved the sandhi to mark word boundaries in
> manuscripts that probably had didactical purposes. What shall we do in such
> cases? If we normalize the sandhi, then this information is lost (unless we
> note it in the introduction). We even go as far as to normalize the
> doubling of consonant after repha, even though this optional orthography is
> allowed by Panini (8.4.46) and it actually occurs very often in
> manuscripts. Why do we do that? Here is the reason, with the counter reason
> why we shouldn't do it, again in the words of Prof. Witzel:
> "This is reasonable practice. However, I think the this practice *is* the
> problem. At any rate, the case is more complicated. Once you start
> comparing MSS from various areas of medieval India you notice clearly
> defined local styles: the Kashmirians have one ``orthography`` of
> Sanskrit, the Newars of the Kathmandu valley another, the Gujaratis,
> Oriyas, Tamils, Nambudiris  still another, and so on...  Apart from
> occasionl remarks (e.g. : this is Dravidian ``ra`` for  vowel ``r``) the
> problem has hardly been noticed. (I think I have referred to it here and
> there in articles on the Paippalada Atharvaveda; or see Lubotsky in IIJ
> 25 for Maitrayani Samhita /Gujarati practise which is surprisingly
> different from what we learn  in school; cf. also Prof. Rao`s example of
> pronunciation of   vowel R in sandhi ).
> You write the following remark:
>  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:
> I think you are mixing up levels, because editing is one thing, and
> preparing a diplomatic transcription is another. Moreover, if a standard is
> not useful and creates more problems that it solves, then there is clearly
> a problem, in this I totally agree with you. However I also do not believe
> that the purpose of this standard was to provide a full guide as to how to
> prepare a diplomatic transcription of manuscripts from all South Asian
> manuscript traditions. In fact, it provides a standard to transliterate
> mainly Devanagari--and related Indic scripts (and this loose definition is
> already problematic). Does the standard provide a rule for distinguishing
> between siromatra and prsthamatra vowels? Then again, why should it?
> I think that your question opened a can of worms, and I have to thank you
> a lot for having asked it.
> Best wishes,
> Camillo

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