30 January 2019


The Institute of Lebanese Thought (ILT) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) held a workshop to discuss transliteration: the practice of transcribing a language with the script of a different one. The workshop was given by Tony Nasrallah, Researcher at the Institute for Lebanese Thought, and addressed the history, nature, and methodology behind the practice.

Nasrallah defined transliteration as the practice of transcribing a language with the script of a different one for specific words within a larger text. He went on to discuss ancient forms of transliteration, such as Garshuni – writing Arabic using Syriac letters – illustrate the distinction between transliteration and etymology – certain words like Television and Telescope share a literal translation (“far-image”), but their etymologies make them distinct words –  and presented modern conventions for transliterating Arabic words into the Latin script.

The conventions Nasrallah presented were the academic standards, internationally recognized in all their major guidelines (Library of Congress, The Encyclopedia of Islam, the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, and the University of Chicago), tailored to ILT’s needs to match the conception set forward by Dr. Ameen Rihani, Director of the Institute of Lebanese Thought. Nasrallah also went over the ways in which an established Unicode has helped transliteration, and provided keyboard shortcuts to access the required letters.

The workshop concluded with hands-on exercises, where participants were asked to transliterate an Arabic word according to the established standards, both longhand, and digitally.