Examples of orthographic transcription are "Pushkin" and "Pouchkine", respectively the English and French orthographic transcriptions of the surname "Пу́шкин" in the name Алекса́ндр Пу́шкин (Alexander Pushkin). Thus, each target language (English and French) transcribes the surname according to its own orthography.
Distinction from transliteration
Transcription as a mapping from sound to script must be distinguished from transliteration, which creates a mapping from one script to another that is designed to match the original script as directly as possible. Standard transcription schemes for linguistic purposes include the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), and its ASCII equivalent, SAMPA. See also phonetic transcription. Transcription is often confused with transliteration, perhaps due to a common journalistic practice of mixing elements of both in rendering foreign names. The resulting practical transcription is a hybrid that is called both "transcription" and "transliteration" by the general public.
The table below shows examples of phonetic transcription of the name of the former Russian president known in English as Boris Yeltsin, followed by accepted hybrid forms in various languages. English speakers will pronounce "Boris" differently from the original Russian, so it is a transliteration rather than a transcription in the strict sense.
The same words are likely to be transcribed differently under different systems. For example, the Mandarin Chinese name for the capital of the People's Republic of China is Beijing using the commonly used contemporary system Hanyu Pinyin, but in the historically significant Wade Giles system, it is written Pei-Ching.
Practical transcription can be done into a non-alphabetic language too. For example, in a Hong Kong newspaper, George Bush's name is transliterated into two Chinese characters that sound like "Bou-sū" (布殊) by using the characters that mean "cloth" and "special". Similarly, many words from English and other Western European languages are borrowed in Japanese and are transcribed using Katakana, one of the Japanese syllabaries.
After transcribing a word from one language to the script of another language:
- one or both languages may develop further. The original correspondence between the sounds of the two languages may change, and so the pronunciation of the transcribed word develops in a different direction from the original pronunciation.
- the transcribed word may be adopted as a loanword in another language with the same script. This often leads to a pronunciation and spelling which are different from a direct transcription.
This is especially evident for Greek loanwords and proper names. Greek words were historically first transcribed to Latin (according to their old pronunciations), and then loaned into other languages, and finally the loanword has developed according to the rules of the target language. For example, Aristotle is the currently used English form of the name of the philosopher whose name in Greek is spelled ̓Aριστoτέλης (Aristotélēs), which was transcribed to Latin Aristoteles, from where it was loaned into other languages and followed their linguistic development. (In "classical" Greek of Aristotle's time, lower-case letters were not used, and the name was spelled ΑΡΙΣΤΟΤΕΛΗΣ.)
Pliocene, a much more recent word, comes from the Greek words πλείων (pleiôn, "more") and καινóς (kainós, "new"), which were first transcribed (Latinised) to plion and caenus and then loaned into other languages. (<κ> became <c> because there was no <k> in Latin.)
When this process continues over several languages, it may fail miserably to convey the original pronunciation. One ancient example is the Sanskrit word dhyāna ("contemplation", "meditation") which was transcribed into the Chinese word ch'anna through Buddhist scriptures; next shortened into ch'an. Ch'an (禪), pronounced zen in Japanese, used as the name of the Buddhist sect of "Chan" (Zen Buddhism), was transcribed from Japanese (ゼン zen) to zen in English. Dhyāna to zen is quite a change.
Another issue is any subsequent change in "preferred" transcription. For instance, the word describing a philosophy or religion in China was popularized in English as Tao and given the termination -ism to produce an English word Taoism. That transcription reflects the Wade-Giles system. More recent Pinyin transliterations produce Dao and Daoism. (See also Daoism-Taoism Romanization issue.)
Transcription and transliteration examples
|Original Russian text||Борис Николаевич Ельцин|
|Official transliteration ISO 9 (GOST 7.79-2000)||Boris Nikolaevič Elʹcin|
|Scholarly transliteration||Boris Nikolaevič Elʼcin|
|IPA phonetic transcription||[bʌˈɾʲis nʲɪkʌˈɫajɪvʲɪt͡ʃʲ ˈjelʲt͡sɨn]|
|Examples of the same name rendered in other orthographic systems (sorted by language families)|
|Bulgarian / Macedonian||Борис Николаевич Елцин|
|Serbian||Борис Николајевич Јељцин + Boris Nikolajevič Jeljcin|
|Croatian||Boris Nikolajevič Jeljcin|
|Slovene / Czech||Boris Nikolajevič Jelcin|
|Slovak||Boris Nikolajevič Jeľcin|
|Polish||Borys Nikołajewicz Jelcyn|
|Latvian||Boriss Nikolajevičs Jeļcins|
|Lithuanian||Boris Nikolajevič Jelcin (Lithuanian form: Borisas Nikolajevičius Jelcinas)|
|English||Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin|
|German||Boris Nikolajewitsch Jelzin|
|Dutch / Norwegian||Boris Nikolajevitsj Jeltsin|
|Swedish / Danish||Boris Nikolajevitj Jeltsin|
|Spanish||Borís Nikoláyevich Yeltsin|
|Filipino||Boris Nikoláyevits Yeltsin|
|Portuguese||Boris Nicoláievitch Iéltsin|
|Catalan||Borís Nikolàievitx Ieltsin|
|French||Boris Nikolaïevitch Ieltsine|
|Albanian||Boris Nikollajeviç Jellcin|
|Armenian||Բորիս Նիկոլաևիչ Ելցին|
|Mahl||ބޮރިސް ނިކޮލަޔެވިޗް ޔެލްސިން|
|Hungarian||Borisz Nyikolajevics Jelcin|
|Finnish||Boris Nikolajevitš Jeltsin|
|Estonian||Boriss Nikolajevitš Jeltsin|
|Turkish||Boris Nikolayeviç Yeltsin|
|Arabic||بوريس نيكولايفتش يلتسن (approx. translit. būrīs nīkūlāyafitsh yīltsin)|
|Hebrew||בוריס ניקולאיביץ' ילצין (approx. translit. bwrjs njḳwlʾjbjṣ' jlṣjn)|
|Chinese (Mandarin)||鲍里斯·尼古拉耶维奇·叶利钦 + Bàolǐsī Nígǔlāyēwéiqí Yèlìqīn (pinyin)|
|Japanese||ボリス・ニコライェヴィッチ・イェリツィン (approx. translit. borisu nikorayevicchi yeritsin)|
|Korean||보리스 니콜라예비치 옐친 (approx. translit. boriseu nikollayebichi yelchin)|
- Hayes, Bruce (2011); Introductory Phonology; John Wiley & Sons; ISBN 1444360132, 9781444360134. "The term orthographic transcription simply means that the words are written down using the customary spelling system (orthography) of the language." For a better view of the examples shown in Hayes's book see Fromkin, Victoria (2000); Linguistics: an introduction to linguistic theory; Wiley-Blackwell; ISBN 0631197117, 9780631197119
- thefreedictionary.com/Transcription, citing Vinogradov, V. A., in The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). Retrieved March 19, 2012.