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Under transcription or transcription (in the broad sense) is the transfer of characters of a writing system in the characters of a different font system (including phonetic ).

In particular, when rendering East Asian languages ​​with the characters of the Latin alphabet and diacritical marks , one also speaks of romanizations (see below ).

Transcription plays an important role in the writing of non-translatable proper names .

Terminology in English

According to ISO, the corresponding English term is conversion . Rather common for transcription by means of Latin letters are romanization and roma tion or latinization and latinisation .

Transcription and transliteration

Transcription (in the narrower sense) is the translation of the characters of a source language into other characters of a target language on the basis of the pronunciation rules of the target language. Transcriptionbased on phonetics has the advantage that a linguist of the target language can easily pronounce the words of the source language written in the transcription correctly. A transcription is usually not reversible and therefore not unique ( injective ). A good transcription is characterized by the fact that it preserves the pronunciation rules as much as possible. A transcription is, for example, the German translation of Cyrillic according to Duden .

During transliteration , each character of an alphabetical writing system of the source language is assigned exactly one character of another alphabetical writing system of the target language, so that, conversely, these characters of the target language can be assigned exactly the original characters of the source language. As a rule, characters are used here that at least suggest the pronunciation, so that phonetic aspects can also play a role here . If the source system contains more characters than the target system, diacritics or character combinations (use of several characters from the target system for one character from the source system) are usually used for transcription (see below ). The transliteration is true to the letter and unambiguous (injective). The great advantage of transliteration is the possibility of being able to retransmit the transliterated characters at any time by applying standardized assignment rules. Correct pronunciation of the words of the source language written down in transcription is possible for everyone on the basis of the standardized assignment rules even without knowledge of the pronunciation rules of the target language. The independence from the rules of the target language gives transliteration a greater international character. On the other hand, a speaker of the target language must first acquire the rules of the respective transliteration in order to be able to read this type of transcription.

Example of transcription and transliteration from a consonant script (Arabic) into Latin script

This example of a Persian two-line line illustrates the distinction between transliteration and transcription according to the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DMG) from an Arabic language into a Latin language:

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

"Indirect" transcription

"Indirect" transcription can be described as the case that a transcription system is used as a basis that has developed itself within the source language , due to the use of different writing systems in different places (e.g. Serbo-Croatian ) or at different times (e.g. Turkish , other Turkic languages ​​of the former Soviet republics ).

If the desired target system is found among the writing systems of the source language, a direct transfer is possible (e.g. transcription Cyrillic → Latin for Serbo-Croatian according to DIN 1460; transcription Arabic → Latin for Turkish according to draft DIN 31635).

If the desired target system is not found among the writing systems of the source language or a direct transfer is not desired, the transcription of one of the source systems can also be declared to be relevant for the other source systems (e.g. transcription Arabic → Latin over the transcription of the Cyrillic form for Turkic languages ​​of former Soviet republics according to DIN 31635).


Within the framework of ISO and DIN there are standards for transcription into Latin for the following writing systems:

Strictly speaking, DIN 1460 for transcribing Cyrillic is neither a transcription with regard to German (since diacritics are used that do not exist in German) nor a transliteration (since a character string such as йу, see Section 3 of the standard, neither with Transcription with the required hyphen is clearly reversible even without a hyphen: ju → йу or й-у; ju → ю or йу). Conversely, purely theoretical systems are conceivable that represent both a transcription and a transliteration.

In some cases, however, these standards do not play a significant role. For Korean, for example, the revised Romanization or the McCune-Reischauer Romanization or non-standardized transcriptions are used much more frequently.

Diacritics, digraphs and special characters

To represent sounds that do not appear in the basic alphabet , letters extended by diacritics (such as "í", "é", "õ") or digraphs (such as "nh", "rh", "gh") or multi-letter combinations ("tsch") used.

When reading such transcription, knowledge of the conventions used is necessary. Often there are several transcription variants (e.g. in the case of Chinese Pinyin běijīng, Wade-Giles pei³ching¹ etc.) or conventions that have changed over time (Cyrillic «в» in German either traditionally as «w» or as in English / French as «V»).

Problems arise in particular with back translations or when transferring into a third language. By using a phonetic alphabet as the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) or SAMPA the problems are the ambiguity be resolved and be read the pronunciation right on the typeface. The disadvantage is the very special character set, which can hardly be read by laypeople.


Transcription of Slavic languages


  • The transcription of the name of the Russian President (Russian Владимир Путин ) is in German as Vladimir Putin , in French as Vladimir Poutine , in English as Vladimir Putin .
  • In the past, first names were often replaced by their German equivalent when translating; z. B. Peter instead of Pyotr Tchaikovsky (Russian Пётр Ильич Чайковский ). Tchaikovsky had described himself that way.

Even an internationally known name like that of the Soviet statesman Khrushchev may seem very foreign to German speakers in other languages ​​(Russian Хрущев (Хрущёв) , transliterated Chruščev (Chruščëv) , IPA xruˈʃtʃof ). Possible transcriptions are:

  • English: Khrushchev
  • French: Khrouchtchev
  • German: Khrushchev
German -ow , because it comes closest to the Russian pronunciation. Transcriptions in other languages ​​ending in -ev lead to incorrect pronunciation of family names in German and have their origins in the Russian spelling rule, according to which the always emphasized "ё" (jo) is actually only written as "ё" where it is written with an otherwise identical written word with "е" (each) can be confused, otherwise eliminates the Trema . In English, however, “ ə ” is spoken, the sound value of the Russian “о” in certain unstressed syllables.
The ch- (IPA x ) in German transcription denotes a sound that does not appear in English or French. There you can help yourself with the transcription kh- , which in turn is misleading for German speakers and is often implemented as a heavily breathed k (IPA ).

In the Soviet Union, only the French transcription of Russian names was officially used, which then appeared in the passport. Even the names of people of German origin were then transcribed in French - Schulze became Choultse , Schneider became Chnaider .
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the official romanization system in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus was gradually changed to English
romanization at the beginning of the 1990s - for example, stone is now made of stone in a passport .
Since the Russian language again does not know an "H" and the Russians try to pronounce it as "ch" or "g", the German Hans in Russian used to be mostly Gans ( Ганс ), today it is more likely to be Chans ( Ханс ), which is in
romanization then it is difficult to recognize as "Hans".

Civil registries

The transcription of names in civil status registers in Germany is based on the transcription used in the documents (in particular passports or birth certificates) of the state to which the foreigner belongs. As a rule, these are transcriptions based on English or French. Only insofar as a transcription in documents issued by the foreigner's home country was not carried out or was carried out on the basis of transliteration, will the international transliteration rules be transferred in German civil status registers. The reason for this approach is that the name spelling in passports and birth certificates on the one hand and in civil status registers on the other hand should not be different. When naturalizing, it is possible to Germanize the spelling and pronunciation of the name .

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. In Oriental Studies, the transliteration is done using capital letters to clearly distinguish it from the transcription .
  2. Vocalization of the pronunciation common in Iran today, which differs from "East Persian" in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the Indian subcontinent.
  3. General administrative regulation for the Personal Status Act (PStG-VwV) , A 4.2; ECLI : EU: C : 1993: 115