It is often possible to transl[iter]ate from a transliteration back into
the vernacular.  In fact, with ALA-LC transliteration of Russian, you can
do so fairly accurately.  There is a slight problem with the use of Roman
numerals in Russian.  "NBAH I" gets transliterated as "IVAN I" but the
reversal changes the Roman "I" to a Cyrillic "I" (which I represented by
the Roman letter "N" above).  This is a problem for "I", "IX"  and
"V" which are the words "and", "their", and "in" in Russian,
respectively--very common words which would reconvert back
to the vernacular very badly when they had started out as Roman
numerals.  One could do pretty well with all the other Roman numerals
because there is no Russian word "XIII", "VII", "IV", etc.

For other scripts, the reversal is even better.  It varies from script to
script depending upon the transliteration scheme used.  The ALA-LC schemes
are quite a mixed bag.  Each was developed in relative isolation of the
others, thus one can't make ANY generalization about how reversable they
are as a whole.

Randy Barry (LC/NDMSO - compiler of the ALA-LC Romanization Tables)

On Tue, 5 Nov 2002, Karen Coyle wrote:

> With Western European languages it is (often) possible to translate from a
> character set like ISO 8859-1 to the Unicode equivalent. But it is not
> possible to translate from a *transliteration* of Chinese or Russian to the
> vernacular characters of the original language. So my concern is not with
> languages that use a latin-based script but with ones that do not.

Randall K. Barry
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