[INDOLOGY] ISO15919 and case insensitivity

Dániel Balogh danbalogh at gmail.com
Mon Jun 10 10:52:06 UTC 2019

Dear All,
I believe some members of the esteemed community reading this were involved
in drawing up the ISO15919 transliteration standard. I would be very happy
to correspond with someone, here or off-list, about some generic issues and
at the moment one particular question.
The generic issues would pertain to using a modified ISO standard in web
and hardcopy publications, including some modifications that prevent us
from making a "claim of conformance" as per section 2 of the standard.
Beyond the practical issue of having to explain to our readers where we
deviate from the standard, I see no problem associated with this, but I may
be missing something. At any rate, a proliferation of idiosyncratic
transliteration systems is not desirable, which leads to the second set of
generic issues: by whom and how is the ISO standard maintained at present,
and is there any chance of proposing slight modifications/addenda/special
cases to it?
The particular question right now is this. The standard explicitly says
that all transliterations must be case insensitive (Section 8.1 Rule 1).
Some of us, however, are thinking of using uppercase Roman characters to
transliterate 1. final consonants represented in historic scripts by
special "halanta" character forms (instead of the addition of a virāma
sign), and 2. initial/full vowels.
The latter could be made clear using the disambiguation sign already
codified in the standard (e.g. transliterating प्रउग as pra:uga), but we
feel that using Roman uppercase for both these phenomena is intuitively
similar to the practice of the original script. [Not directly relevant to
the question at hand is that we would also introduce an additional symbol
for transliterating the explicit virāma sign to handle final or conjunct
consonants created with such a sign.]
We would use this notation for epigraphic material, but as far as I can see
it would be equally advantageous in codicology where a diplomatic
transliteration is desirable. Unambiguously (and in some cases redundantly)
differentiating final vowel forms is useful not only in cases where these
are used as a means of text segmentation (e.g. the final consonant of a
verse quarter is inscribed using a special form, followed by the initial
consonant of the next quarter, without an intervening punctuation sign but
with the clear intent of representing the yati in writing), but also where
partially legible text precedes or follows a lacuna (e.g. occasionally a
legible vowel mātrā is attached to a lost/illegible consonant, and it is
desirable to make it clear in the transliteration that the vowel read is
not a full vowel akṣara).
Many thanks in advance for any enlightening comments, and my apologies for
going into possibly unnecessary detail on the why and how.

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