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Transliteration (from Latin trans 'over' and litera (also littera) 'letter') describes in applied linguistics the literal translation of words from one script into another (e.g. Greek φ as ph, runic ᛜ as ng) . If necessary, diacritical marks are used so that a clear retransmission is possible.

Knowledge of the pronunciation rules of the original language is not sufficient in order to be able to pronounce transliterated words correctly. Transliteration is useful for the uniform sorting of authors and subject titles or other list elements from languages ​​with non-Latin letters.

Transliteration should not be confused with transcription . In Egyptology , however, the two terms are used interchanged.


A distinction is made in transliteration (in the broader sense: transcription) between:

  1. Transliteration (literal transcription, rendering) as a script-based, literal, reversible translation of a word from one script into another, often with the help of diacritical marks . The person skilled in the art should be able to see the exact spelling of the word in the other script, if this cannot be shown in the original version (for example because no corresponding types or character sets are available).
  2. Transcription (in the narrower sense) ( phonetic transcription, reproduction) as a pronunciation-based representation of language with the help of a phonetically defined phonetic spelling or another basic alphabet as a phonetic spelling substitute. This should enable the non-native speaker to pronounce the word halfway correctly.
Transliteration and transcription (in the narrower sense) using the example of the modern Greek language
Modern Greek word Transliteration transcription Comments on the debate
Ελληνική Δημοκρατία Ellēnikḗ Dēmokratía Elliniki Dimokratia Δ, δ as in English th in this
Ελευθερία Eleuthería Eleftheria Θ, θ as in English th in thing
βασιλεύς εν Ναυπλίω basileús en Nauplíō vasilefs en Nafplio β as in German w; αυ / ευ as in German af / ef before hard consonants
Ευαγγέλιο Euaggélio Evangelio ευ as in German ew before vowels and soft consonants; γγ as German ng 
των υιών tōn uiṓn tone ion υ / υι like German i
Μπερλίν, Ντακάρ, Γκέντ Mperlín, Ntakár, Gként Berlin, Dakar, Gent μπ / ντ / γκ ( diagrams ) like German b / d / g

Examples of transliteration systems exist for Arabic , Armenian , Bulgarian , Greek , Hebrew , Korean , Macedonian , Persian , Russian , Sanskrit , Serbian , Thai (Thai) , Ukrainian, and Belarusian .

There are no transliteration systems, only transcription systems for complex scripts such as Chinese .

Example of transcription and transliteration from a consonant script

Using the example of a Persian two-line line, the distinction between transliteration and transcription according to the specifications of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG) from an Arabic language into a Latin language can be illustrated:

Description: First line from the Mas̱nawī-ye ma'nawī ("Spiritual two-line lines") of Rumi : "Hear the flute what it says / how it complains of being separated"
Source text: بشنو از نى چون حكايت ميكند / از جدائى ها شكايت ميكند
Transliteration: BŠNW 'Z NY ČWN ḤK'YT MYKND /' Z ǦD''Y H 'ŠK'YT MYKND
Transcription: bešnau az ney čūn ḥekāyat mīkonad / az ǧodā'ī-hā šekāyat mīkonad
  1. In Oriental Studies, the transliteration is done using capital letters to clearly distinguish it from the transcription .
  2. Vocalization according to the pronunciation common in today's Iran, which differs from "East Persian" in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the Indian subcontinent.


German standards

International standards

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Transliteration  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations