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Transliteration is the practice of converting a text from one writing system into another in a systematic way.



From an information-theoretical point of view, transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another, word by word, or ideally letter by letter. Transliteration attempts to use a one-to-one correspondence and be exact, so that an informed reader should be able to reconstruct the original spelling of unknown transliterated words.

Transliteration is opposed to transcription, which specifically maps the sounds of one language to the best matching script of another language. Still, most systems of transliteration map the letters of the source script to letters pronounced similarly in the goal script, for some specific pair of source and goal language. If the relations between letters and sounds are similar in both languages, a transliteration may be (almost) the same as a transcription. In practice, there are also some mixed transliteration/transcription systems that transliterate a part of the original script and transcribe the rest.

In a broader sense, the word transliteration may be used to include both transliteration in the narrow sense and transcription. Anglicizing is a transcription method. Romanization encompasses several transliteration and transcription methods.

Among the interpreters between a spoken language and a signed language, like between English and American Sign Language (ASL), the word transliteration means transforming the spoken form of the source language into the signed form of the same by use of the manual alphabet, which is used whenever a word does not have a signed equivalent.[citation needed]


Transliterations are used in situations where the original script is not available to write down a word in that script, while still high precision is required. For example, traditional or cheap typesetting with a small character set; editions of old texts in scripts not used any more (such as Linear B); some library catalogues.[1]

For example, the Greek language is written in the 24-letter Greek alphabet, which overlaps with, but differs from, the 26-letter version of the Roman alphabet in which English is written. Etymologies in English dictionaries often identify Greek words as ancestors of words used in English. Consequently, most such dictionaries transliterate the Greek words into Roman letters.

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