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Transcribing Greek names into the Latin alphabet
Thread poster: Tim Drayton

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 13:13
Turkish to English
+ ...
Sep 22, 2006

I am currently translating into English a chapter about the rise of Greek national consciousness from a book written in Turkish. The chapter obviously includes a lot of Greek names. At first glance, since Turkish and English both use the Latin alphabet, this appears to involve nothing more than copying the names as they are written in Turkish. Unfortunately, it is not so simple as Turkish transcribes Greek names phonetically, while the practice in English usually involves transcribing the Greek lettters one by one into their Latin alphabet equivalents, thus retaining the original diagraphs. Thus, the surname of the Cyprus Republic president is 'Papadopulos' in Turkish but 'Papadopoulos' in English. I live in a Greek-speaking town (Limassol) and am familiar with the Greek alphabet so I am able to trace names back to their original Greek spelling. What I really wonder is whether there is an accepted, prescriptive method for transcribing Greek names into English. I have my doubts as to whether there is such a standard because the name of the suburb in which I live is variously transcribed as 'Agios Athanasios' and 'Ayos Athanasios', the first being a letter-for-letter transcription and the second a phonetic rendering. What I would like to be able to do is report to the author/publisher that I have used system x for transcription. Does x exist? If there is a standard that is officially in force in the Cyprus Republic this would be the best option for me because the University of Cyprus is commissionning the work.
Can anybody point me towards an officially-sanctioned set of rules for this purpose? I would be grateful if you can.


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Daphne b  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 12:13
Member (2003)
Swedish to Greek
+ ...
ISO 843 Sep 22, 2006

This is the official standard, which in Greece corresponds to the ELOT 743 standard. I do not know whether this is also applicable in Cyprus, but I should think so.
Some links:
http://www.iso.org/iso/en/CatalogueDetailPage.CatalogueDetail?CSNUMBER=5215&ICS1=1&ICS2=140&ICS3=10
(you have to buy it on the ISO homepage)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_843
http://www.teiher.gr/users/kutrulis/Ergalia/ELOT743.htm

Hope this helps a bit.


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:13
French to English
+ ...
This has been litigated in the EU Sep 22, 2006

I have actually written a book that discusses this issue. The European Court of Justice in 1993 heard a challenge from a Greek national who complained about the way Germany had transcribed his name into Roman letters. He argued that the transliteration method used by Germany confused others who knew his name differently and also distorted his name's etymological origins. These arguments were not successful. The case is C-168/91 Konstantinidis, reported at 1993 ECR I-1191, and also available on the EU's europa website, www.europa.eu.

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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 13:13
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Daphne Sep 22, 2006

Thanks. Your answer helps more than a bit. I wanted some kind of official standard to work by and you can't get more official than ISO.

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nevipaul
Local time: 13:13
Greek to English
This rings a bell Sep 22, 2006

I think I remember reading an article a while back (or maybe it was something in a book) about how the Cypriot authorities (an academy possibly?) had laid down a new set of rules for transliteration which were closely modelled the rules laid down for Greece by ELOT. The author was against this for various reasons, but the point is that (as far as I remember) a transliteration standard was introduced a few years ago.

This is unlikely to be of much help to you, but perhaps it might jog someone else's memory. If I can recall anything further I'll post again...

Paul


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 13:13
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I think you are right, Paul Sep 23, 2006

In response to Paul's reply, I think he is right because I know that here in Cyprus they are gradually changing the Latin alphabet version of place names on signposts (all road signs here are bilingual Greek/English). I notice there is a sign near where I live that used to read 'Agios Athanasios' and they have physically scraped off the 'gi' and placed a 'y' in the space so that it reads 'Ayos Athansios'. It seems the Cypriot authorities have decided to move towards a more phonetic transcription. This may have something to do with the large number of English speakers living here who were perhaps having difficulty pronouncing place names due to the way they were written.
Anyway, for my purposes I just needed an accepted standard to work by, and ISO843/ELOT743 is an impressive-sounding standard.


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