Transliteration Schemes For Mongolian Vertical Script

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Transliteration Systems for Uyghur-Mongolian or Vertical or Old Script

The only system for the Mongolian vertical script which is used commonly throughout Mongolian studies worldwide is the Vladimirtsov-Mostaert system (V-M). The only dictionary using this system is in an appendix to Antoine Mostaert’s Dictionnaire ordos. Thus the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies specifies, “please use the written Mongolian appendix to Antoine Mostaert’s Dictionnaire ordos. However, the V-M system has many difficult diacriticals and non-Latin characters that constitute a significant problem for editors and thus is difficult to recommend.

The Library of Congress has its own system for the vertical script, which generally follows the Vladimirtsov-Mostaert system but with some changes (see external link:

  • Gamma / γ replaced by g with a dot over it: ġ; for the syllable final gamma, for bibliographic transcription a dot over the g could be used by the conscientious, but it could also be dropped for ordinary purposes, since it makes no difference for pronunciation.
  • O / U with an umlaut replaced by o / u with a single dot over it.
  • C / j with hacheks over them are replaced by plain c and j
  • The V-M system uses plain c and j for certain types of galig (foreign) letters in the vertical script – by using plain c and j for the normal Mongolian letters, the LoC system doesn’t actually have them.

However, the LOC system is not much simpler than V-M, is not actually closer to pronunciation, and simply has not been used in scholarship. Besides, LOC transcriptions for Mongolian SWARM with real errors (not transcription niceties, but WRONG readings), so hardly anyone takes them seriously anyway. (Looking up a book in Mongolian in a catalog is always a bit of an adventure – you have to guess how a cataloger with only enough Mongolian to be dangerous might have cataloged it.) My suggestion would be to simplify the V-M system, removing the diacriticals and non-Latin characters. This can be done with varying degrees of radicalness. What I propose in an attached table is a fairly conservative way of doing it. Probably the only thing unfamiliar about it to some Mongolists might be the handling of the gamma (sometimes as gh and sometimes as g). But this has good phonemic and comparative basis.

1. Mostaert-Vladimirtsov2. Library of Congress3. Lessing4. THL Simplified Transliteration of Mongolian Script
ayi-ayi-**aiaï (dots may be omitted if diacritical not desired)
eyi-eyi-**eieï (dots may be omitted if diacritical not desired)
oyioyi-**oioï (dots may be omitted if diacritical not desired)
uyiuyi-**uiuï (dots may be omitted if diacritical not desired)
üi (üyi is never correct)üi*yiüi
qa-, qo-, qu-qa-, qo-, qu-xa-, xo-, xu-kha-, kho-, khu-
ke-, ki-, kö-, kü-ke-, ki-, kö-, kü-ke-, ki-, kø-, ky-ke-, ki-, kö-, kü-
γa-, γo-, γu-ġa-, ġo-, ġu-γa-, γo-, γu-gha-, gho-, ghu-
ge-, gi-, gö-, gü-ge-, gi-, gö-, gü-ge-, gi-, gø-, gy-ge-, gi-, gö-, gü-
-γ (at end of word or followed by consonant)-ġ (dot may be omitted if diacritical not desired)
-g (at end of word or followed by consonant)-g-g
sa-, se-, so-, sö-, sü-sa-, se-, so-, sö-, sü-sa-, se-, so-, sø-, sy-sa-, se-, so-, sö-, sü-
v ~ w (no agreed system, either is appropriate)vvw†
ka-, ko-, ku-, ke-, ki-, kö-, küka-, ko-, ku-ka-, ko-, ku-,ka-, ko-, ku-†


*Actually with only a single dot in LoC
**Frequently mis-transcribed in catalogues as aii, eii, oii, uii, etc. As the equivalent to ayi, eyi, oyi, uyi, we suggest not simply ai, ei, oi, ui but aï, eï, oï, and uï (though never üï). The reason is most of the time, in the word initial or middle position, you will have what could be transcribed as ayi or aii, etc. But sometimes, with some words you just have ai, etc. (that is with only one “shin”/yodh), instead of the usually correct ayi, etc. (that is, with double “shins”/yodh). And in the word final position you just have ai, etc. So for purposes of bibliographic transcription, one should probably have a way distinguish to ayi, etc. from ai, etc. Since this is a nuance of the script, and the pronunciation is identical, a common diacritical can by used. This is the ï, which in this case would mark the double “shins”. For non-bibliographic purposes it could be left off without harm, however.
***LoC does not actually have an official equivalence for this, but this is what is sometimes used.
****Lessing’s does not actually have this character (it is used in post-1949 Inner Mongolian transcriptions from Chinese and Russian and his sources were all pre-1949), but this would accord with his system.
†Used in the transliteration of foreign words.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library