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definition - Ukrainian_transliteration

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Romanization of Ukrainian

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The romanization or Latinization of Ukrainian is the representation of the Ukrainian language using Latin letters. Ukrainian is natively written in its own Ukrainian alphabet, a variation of Cyrillic.

Romanization may be employed to represent Ukrainian text or pronunciation for non-Ukrainian readers, on computer systems that cannot reproduce Cyrillic characters, or for typists who are not familiar with the Ukrainian keyboard layout. Methods of romanization include transliteration, representing written text, and transcription, representing the spoken word.

In contrast to romanization, there have been several historical proposals for a native Ukrainian Latin alphabet, usually based on those used by West Slavic languages, but none has caught on.


Romanization systems

Part of a table of letters of the alphabet for the Ruthenian language, from Ivan Uzhevych's Hrammatyka Slovenskaja (1645). Columns show the letter names printed, in manuscript Cyrillic and Latin, common Cyrillic letterforms, and the Latin transliteration. Part 2, part 3.


Transliteration is the letter-for-letter representation of text using another writing system. Rudnyckyj classified transliteration systems into the scholarly system, used in academic and especially linguistic works, and practical systems, used in administration, journalism, in the postal system, in schools, etc.[1] The scholarly or scientific system is used internationally, with very little variation, while the various practical methods of transliteration are adapted to the orthographical conventions of other languages, like English, French, German, etc.

Depending on the purpose of the transliteration it may be necessary to be able to reconstruct the original text, or it may be preferable to have a transliteration which sounds like the original language when read aloud.

International scholarly system
Also called scientific transliteration, this system is most often seen in linguistic publications on Slavic languages. It is purely phonemic, meaning each character represents one meaningful unit of sound, and is based on the Croatian Latin alphabet.[1] It was codified in the 1898 Prussian Instructions for libraries, or Preußische Instruktionen (PI). It was later adopted by the International Organization for Standardization, with minor differences, as ISO/R 9:1968.
Representing all of the necessary diacritics on computers requires Unicode, Latin-2, Latin-4, or Latin-7 encoding. Other Slavic based romanizations occasionally seen are those based on the Slovak alphabet or the Polish alphabet, which include symbols for palatalized consonants.
Library of Congress system
The ALA-LC Romanization Tables, published by the American Library Association (1885) and Library of Congress (1905). Used to represent bibliographic information by US and Canadian libraries, by the British Library since 1975,[2] and in North American publications. The latest 1997 revision is very similar to the 1905 version.
Requires Unicode for connecting diacritics—these are used in bibliographies and catalogues, but typically omitted in running text.
British Standard
British Standard 2979:1958, from BSI, is used by the Oxford University Press.[3] A variation is used by the British Museum and British Library, but since 1975 their new acquisitions have been catalogued using Library of Congress transliteration.[2]
BGN/PCGN romanization is a series of standards approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names and Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use, and also adopted by the United Nations. Pronunciation is intuitive for English-speakers. Latest revision is from 1965. A modified version is also mentioned in the Oxford Style Manual.[3]
Requires only ASCII characters if optional separators are not used.
GOST (1971, 1983)/Derzhstandart (1995)
The Soviet Union's GOST, COMECON's SEV, and Ukraine's Derzhstandart are government standards bodies of the former Eurasian communist countries. They published a series of romanization systems for Ukrainian, which were replaced by ISO 9:1995. For details, see GOST 16876-71.
ISO 9:1995
ISO 9 is a standard from the International Organization for Standardization. It supports most national Cyrillic alphabets in a single transliteration table. Each Cyrillic character is represented by exactly one unique Latin character, so the transliteration is reliably reversible. This was originally derived from the Scholarly system in 1954, and is meant to be usable by readers of most European languages.
The 1995 revision considers only graphemes and disregards phonemic differences. So, for example, г (Ukrainian He or Russian Ge) is always represented by the transliteration g; ґ (Ukrainian letter Ge) is represented by .
Representing all of the necessary diacritics on computers requires Unicode, and a few characters are rarely present in computer fonts, for example g-grave: g̀.
Ukrainian National transliteration (1996)
The official system of Ukraine also employed by the United Nations and many countries' foreign services. It is currently widely used to represent Ukrainian geographic names, which were almost exclusively romanized from Russian before Ukrainian independence in 1991. Based on English orthography. It was codified in Decision No. 9 of the Committee on Issues of Legal Terminology, on April 19, 1996.[4][5]
The decision states that the system is binding for the transliteration of Ukrainian names in English in legislative and official acts. A new official system has been introduced for transliteration of Ukrainian personal names in Ukrainian passport in 2007 (see below).
The system requires only ASCII characters.
Ukrainian official transliteration for personal names in Ukrainian passport (2007)
The system is used for transliterating personal names in Ukrainian passports, approved as Decision no. 858 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, June 26, 2007.[6]
The system requires only ASCII characters.
Romanization for other languages
Romanization intended for readers of other languages is usually transcribed phonetically into the familiar orthography. For example, y, kh, ch, sh, shch for anglophones may be transcribed j, ch, tsch, sch, schtsch for German readers (for letters й, х, ч, ш, щ). Or it may be rendered in Latin letters according to the normal orthography of another Slavic language, such as Polish or Croatian (as does the established scholarly system, above).
Ad hoc romanization
Users of public-access computers or mobile text messaging services sometimes improvise informal romanization due to limitations in keyboard or character set. These may include both sound-alike and look-alike letter substitutions. Example: YKRAINCbKA ABTORKA for "УКРАЇНСЬКА АВТОРКА". See also Volapuk encoding.
This system uses the available character set.
Ukrainian telegraph code
For telegraph transmission. Each separate ukrainian letter had latin equivalent 1:1. So latin Q, W, V, X are equivalent to ukrainian Я (or Щ sometimes), В, Ж, Ь. Other letters are transcribed phonetically. That principle is used in building KOI8-U table.


Transcription is the representation of the spoken word. Phonological, or phonemic, transcription represents the phonemes, or meaningful sounds of a language, and is useful to describe the general pronunciation of a word. Phonetic transcription represents every single sound, or phone, and can be used to compare different dialects of a language. Both methods can use the same sets of symbols, but linguists usually denote phonemic transcriptions by enclosing them in slashes / ... /, while phonetic transcriptions are enclosed in square brackets [ ... ].

The International Phonetic Alphabet precisely represents pronunciation. Requires a special Unicode font.

Conventional romanization of proper names

In many contexts, it is common to use a modified system of transliteration that strives to be read and pronounced naturally by anglophones. Such transcriptions are also used for the surnames of people of Ukrainian ancestry in English-speaking countries (personal names have often been translated to equivalent or similar English names, e.g., "Alexander" for Oleksandr, "Terry" for Taras).

Usually such a usage is based on either the Library of Congress (in North America) or British Standard system. Such a simplified system usually omits diacritics and tie-bars, simplifies -yj and -ij word endings to "-y", ignores the Ukrainian soft sign (ь) and apostrophe (), and may substitute ya, ye, yu, yo for ia, ie, iu, io at the beginnings of words. It may also simplify doubled letters.

Conventional transliterations can reflect the history of a person or place. Many well-known spellings are based on transcriptions into another Latin alphabet, such as the German or Polish. Others are transcribed from equivalent names in other languages, for example Ukrainian Pavlo ("Paul") may be called by the Russian equivalent Pavel, Ukrainian Kyiv by the Russian equivalent Kiev.

Treatises on history often use the pedantic transliteration with apostrophe for the name Rus’, even when they drop the apostrophe for all other names and words.

The employment of romanization systems can become complex. For example, the English translation of Kubijovyč's Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopædia uses a modified Library of Congress (ALA-LC) system as outlined above for Ukrainian and Russian names—with the exceptions for endings or doubled consonants applying variously to personal and geographic names. For technical reasons, maps in the Encyclopedia follow different conventions. Names of persons are anglicized in the encyclopedia's text, but also presented in their original form in the index. Various geographic names are presented in their anglicized, Russian, or both Ukrainian and Polish forms, and appear in several forms in the index. Scholarly transliteration is used in linguistics articles. The Encyclopedia's explanation of its transliteration and naming convention occupies 2-1/2 pages.

  • Kubijovyč, Volodymyr, ed., ed (1963). Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopædia, Vol. 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. xxxii–xxxiv. ISBN 0-8020-3105-6. 

Table of romanization systems

Common systems for romanizing Ukrainian
CyrillicScholarly*ALA-LCBritishBGN/PCGN**ISO 9National††French‡‡German***
А аaaaaaaaa
Б бbbbbbbbb
В вvvvvvvvw
Г гhhghgh, gh¹hh
Ґ ґggggggg
Д дdddddddd
Е еeeeeeeee
Є єjei͡eyeyeêie, ye²ieje
Ж жžz͡hzhzhžzhjsh
З зzzzzzzzs
И иyyyyiyyy
І іiiiiìiii
Ї їji (ï)ïïyiïi, yi²ïji
Й йjĭĭyji, y²yj
К кkkkkkkkk
Л лllllllll
М мmmmmmmmm
Н нnnnnnnnn
О оoooooooo
П пpppppppp
Р рrrrrrrrr
С сssssssss, ss
Т тtttttttt
У уuuuuuuouu
Ф фffffffff
Х хx (ch)khkhkhhkhkhch
Ц цct͡ststsctstsz
Ч чčchchchčchtchtsch
Ш шšshshshšshchsch
Щ щščshchshchshchŝschchtchschtsch
Ь ь
Ю юjui͡uyuyuûiu, yu²iouju
Я яjai͡ayayaâia, ya²iaja
- (″)-
* Scholarly transliteration
Where two transliterations appear, the first is according to the traditional system, and the second according to ISO/R 9:1968.
When applied strictly, ALA-LC requires the use of two-character combining diacritics, but in practice these are often omitted.
‡ British Standard
Endings -ий and -ій may be simplified to -y in proper nouns.
The character sequences зг = z·h, кг = k·h, сг = s·h, тс = t·s, and цг = ts·h may be romanized with midpoints to differentiate them from the digraphs ж = zh, х = kh, ш = sh, ц = ts, and the letter sequence тш = tsh.
†† Ukrainian National transliteration
Transliteration can be rendered in a simplified form:
  • Doubled consonants ж, х, ц, ч, ш are simplified, for example Запоріжжя = Zaporizhia.
  • Apostrophe and soft sign are omitted, but always render ьо = ’o and ьї = ’i.
1. gh is used in the romanization of зг = zgh, avoiding confusion with ж = zh.
2. The second variant is used at the beginning of a word.
‡‡ French
Jean Girodet (1976), Dictionnaire de la langue francaise, Paris: Éditions Bordas.
*** German
(2000) Duden, v 22, Mannheim: Dudenverlag.

See also


  1. ^ Rudnyckyj 1948, p 1.
  2. ^ a bSearching for Cyrillic items in the catalogues of the British Library: guidelines and transliteration tables
  3. ^ a b Oxford Style Manual (2003), “Slavonic Languages”, s 11.41.2, p 350. Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ Official Ukrainian-English transliteration system adopted by the Ukrainian Legal Terminology Commission (in English)
  5. ^ Рішення Української Комісії з питань правничої термінології (in Ukrainian)
  6. ^ Decision no. 858 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, June 26, 2007


  • Daniels, Peter T., and William Bright, eds. (1996). The World's Writing Systems, pp. 700, 702, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0.
  • U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Foreign Names Committee Staff (1994). Romanization Systems and Roman-Script Spelling Conventions, p. 105.
  • Rudnyc’kyj, Jaroslav B. (1948). Чужомовні транслітерації українських назв: Iнтернаціональна, англійська, французька, німецька, еспанська й португальська (Foreign transliterations of Ukrainian names: The international, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese), Augsburg: Iнститут родо- й знаменознавства.

External links

Transliteration systems


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