Digital Syriac Corpus Documentation

Defining Terms

Transliteration, in the sense used here, refers to the rendering of characters written in one script in another script. For example, the Syriac word ܟܬܒܐ can be transliterated into English as ktbʾ. While transliteration can occur between any two scripts, transliteration into the Roman (or Latin) script can also be called "romanization". Finally it should be noted that romanization schemes themselves can vary based on the target language. For example a Anglicized transliteration of the Syriac letter ܫ might be sh while a Francophone romanization scheme might render the character as ch.

Vocalization, in the sense used here, refers to marking of vowels in languages such as Syriac or Arabic in which vowels were traditionally left unwritten. In the transliteration systems described below, the process of rendering text in Syriac script into Roman script may also be accompanied by the marking of vowels not indicated in the original text. For example, the Syriac word ܟܬܒܐ can be transliterated and vocalized into English as ktaba.

Digital Syriac Corpus's preferred Anglicized transliteration system is that used by the Gorgias Encyclopedia of the Syriac Heritage (GEDSH). Nearly all entries provide transliteration according to this scheme which is described further below.

Digital Syriac Corpus may also provide additional data using other Syriac transliteration and vocalization systems.

These include the following standard schemes:

Anglicized Vocalized Transliteration

Unvocalized Machine-Reversible Transliteration

N.B. Users can also search and browse the majority of Digital Syriac Corpus entries using non-Roman scripts (Syriac, Arabic, etc.), but searching using Roman characters is the only way to search all entries at once regardless of language since not all entries have data in Arabic or Syriac script. Compare the following search results: "Mar" and "ܡܪܝ""

The GESDH Transliteration Scheme

The scheme is used in Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz, and Lucas Van Rompay, eds. The Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2011). The following text is adapted with permission from page X of the introduction.

The Syriac consonants are transliterated:

ʾ, b, g, d, h, w, z, ḥ, ṭ, y, k, l, m, n, s, ʿ, p, ṣ, q, r, š, and t. 

Please note that the characters: ʾ and ʿ are not inverted commas or apostrophes but are the unicode “modifier letter right half ring” and “modifier letter left half ring” characters. Thus modifier letter left half ring ʿ is used to transliterate ʿayn and modifier letter right half ring ʾ is used to transliterate ālap.

In personal names and geographic names, šin is transliterated sh instead of š.

Ālap, waw, and yud are not indicated when they serve as matres lectionis.

Ālap is not indicated when it is word initial, e.g. alāhāʾit.

Spirantization (i.e. rukkākā) is generally not marked, though in several more well-known words it is marked (e.g. beth).

Gemination of consonants is represented for E. Syr. but not for W. Syr.

The vowels:

East Syriac a, ā, e, ē (i.e. rbāṣā karyā), i, o, and u

West Syriac a, o, e, i, and u

The distinction between a and is not indicated in the transliteration of Syriac geographic names.

The E.-Syr. transliteration system can be used with material prior to the East/West division as well as for instances that span both the E.- and W.-Syr. traditions.

Schwa is not generally marked, except in certain proper names, for which the more common transliteration with schwa is used.

The Arabic consonants are transliterated:

ʾ, b, t, th, j, ḥ, kh, d, dh, r, z, s, š, ṣ, ḍ, ṭ, ẓ, ʿ, gh, f, q, k, l, m, n, h, w, and y.

Arabic ḥamza (ʾ) is not indicated when it is word initial.

The Arabic vowels are transliterated a, ā, i, ī, u, and ū.

Sources

  1. Tom Elliott, David Michelson, Gabriel Bodard, Eli Weaverdyck, Valeria Vitale, and Sarah Bond, “Name Romanization Guide,” Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places, November 23, 2016, https://pleiades.stoa.org/help/name-romanization-guide.
  2. Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz, and Lucas Van Rompay, eds. The Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2011).