12.2102, Qs: Russian-Chinese Cross-Transliteration Issues

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Sat Aug 25 01:04:15 UTC 2001

LINGUIST List:  Vol-12-2102. Fri Aug 24 2001. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 12.2102, Qs: Russian-Chinese Cross-Transliteration Issues

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Date:  Thu, 23 Aug 2001 09:57:54 -0400
From:  "Michael" <michael at rfa.org>
Subject:  Russian-Chinese Cross-Transliteration Issues

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Thu, 23 Aug 2001 09:57:54 -0400
From:  "Michael" <michael at rfa.org>
Subject:  Russian-Chinese Cross-Transliteration Issues

Dear Linguists,

     I am currently involved in a project translating Russian-language
sources on Uyghur history and ethnography into English.  For the most
part things are going well, but there is one problem that is making
the work rather challenging.

     While Chinese can be Romanized without difficulty thanks to
systems like Pinyin and Wade-Giles, it is actually quite difficult (at
least in my estimation -- I am a native speaker of English) to
accurately render Chinese pronunciation with the Cyrillic alphabet.
The problems, to a large degree, are phonetic/phonological ...

     Russian, for instance, has no single morpheme for "ng", a sound
which is, for lack of a better word, "rampant" in Mandarin.  The end
result of this is a dropping of the "ng" for an "n".  This can cause
some pretty big ambiguities as, for example, "chen" and "cheng", which
are completely different in a number of respects, are represented by a
single pronunciation.

     I can say that these problems are limited to proper names (not
that it makes that much difference) but making sure we
re-transliterate names properly is critical to the work.

     Since I am not a Uyghur history expert and most of the names are
unfamiliar, I need to talk to some folks who work with both Chinese
and Russian who are more familiar with the transliteration process
than I am.  Right now all I have are a few Chinese-Russian phrasebooks
which really aren't that helpful.  Any recommendations ?

Thanks in advance,

           michael hunter horlick
               michael at rfa.org

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