[INDOLOGY] Question on Diacritical Marks

Lubin, Tim LubinT at wlu.edu
Tue Sep 6 01:55:56 UTC 2016

Andrew Ollett’s justification of diacritics in dissertations is exactly right.  They are not that hard for nonspecialists to handle, but provide sufficient information for them to keep track of key terms and names.  It is hard to imagine a dissertation dealing closely with Sanskrit-medium philosophy while dispensing with the tools for representing the language unambiguously.  Jeff, send that dissertation back and have the student make it presentable.

Dominik, I think there are very important reasons for transliterating in discussions of Sanskrit and other Indian texts.  Apart from the dizzying variety of scripts involved in the primary sources, transliteration is a very useful aid for students and other non-specialists.  I recall that even before I learned Sanskrit, I built a repertoire of vocabulary from coursework and reading of secondary sources that allowed my first steps.  Using only Devanagari would please many north Indians, but it would shut out any non-Sanskritist readers in other countries.  And showing word breaks is another useful service.  (A stronger case can of course be made for printing full editions in Devanagari.)

Anyway, it is just not true that secondary-source publications on citing words in Greek, Russian, Armenian, Hebrew, etc. never transliterate.  It just depend on how narrow an audience is envisioned.



Timothy Lubin
Professor of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Law
Chair of the Department of Religion
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia 24450


From: INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info<mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info>> on behalf of Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com<mailto:wujastyk at gmail.com>>
Date: Monday, September 5, 2016 at 9:33 PM
To: Andrew Ollett <andrew.ollett at gmail.com<mailto:andrew.ollett at gmail.com>>
Cc: "indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>" <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Question on Diacritical Marks

I don't have any solid evidence for this, but I assume that transliteration was invented for Sanskrit because printing Devanagari was difficult.  It isn't difficult any more.  All modern computers can make a decent fist of Devanagari.  So why are we routinely using transliteration at all, any more?  People writing scholarship on Greek or Russian or Armenian don't use Latin script.  Why should we?

And if you know any other windmills, I'd be glad to tilt at them too. :-)


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