[INDOLOGY] Question on Diacritical Marks

Olivelle, J P jpo at austin.utexas.edu
Tue Sep 6 11:30:46 UTC 2016

Like Jonathan, I also thought I would keep out of this issue, because I did not have anything new to contribute. However, Dominik’s message made me change my mind. We may think today that Devanāgarī is the “script” of Sanskrit, but historically it never was, unlike Latin, Greek, Chinese, or Japanese. As anyone who has worked on Sanskrit manuscripts knows, Sanskrit texts were written in regional scripts: Grantha, Telugu, Malayalam, Newari, Śāradā, etc. So there is no exact parallel between Sanskrit and other languages.

Given that Latin script with diacritics parallels exactly the Sanskrit alphabet, the issues raised with regard to Chinese do not arise. My own rule of thumb is that if it is simply a word or sentence within an English article or book, then I use the Latin script, but for texts in Sanskrit (as now the rule with the Murthy Library) I use Devanāgarī. Murthy also has come up with a possible middle ground: putting names of people and places without diacritics, while using them for other Sanskrit terms. But I guess we will never come up with a solution that will satisfy all.


On Sep 5, 2016, at 8:33 PM, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com<mailto:wujastyk at gmail.com>> wrote:

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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