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Transcription, Transliteration and Orthography

Neither Mansi nor Khanty has a long literary tradition. The beginnings of the orthographical systems for the writing of these languages used in school instruction, journalism and book publication reach back only to the 1920’s (with a few exceptions in the 19th century connected with missionary work and Bible translations). Apart from a brief period in the 1930’s when the so called „Alphabet of the Peoples of the North“ based on Latin was used, after 1937 the various systems have always been based on the Cyrillic alphabet with orthographical principles as used in Russian. The orthographical conventions have been altered several times in the course of their development, especially as regards the additional special characters used for marking e.g. long vowels, consonants such as ŋ, γ, λ, sʲ etc.
As regards Mansi, it was only in the beginning that the Konda dialect was used, but throughout the 20th century it was the Northern dialect which has been and still is used as a vehicle of writing. For Khanty the selection of the dialects to be used as a written medium has not been clear-cut, with various dialects being used at different times as the basis of a literary language. Today it is above all the Kazym, Surgut and Shuryshkar dialects that are used with an established system of orthography.

Linguists dealing with Mansi or Khanty have traditionally used varying systems to record Mansi and Khanty words and texts in writing. Until recent times this meant employing a form of the Finno-Ugric transcription system (FUT). Earlier researchers regularly used their own individual and partially highly idiosyncratic and phonetic systems (compare the notations of A. Ahlqvist, B. Munkácsi, K.F. Karjalainen or A. Kannisto), but in the second half of the 20th century a more unified and phonematic form of the FUT came into use. Recent decades have also seen the advent of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) in Mansi and Khanty linguistics. Modern researchers must be expected to deal with texts written in FUT, IPA and the standard (Cyrillic) orthographies of Mansi and Khanty.

Below you will find some tables summing up the differences in the conventions concerning transcription, transliteration and original orthography of Ob-Ugric sources that will enable the users to move more easily between the original sources and their presentation in our data base. These tables are at the same time an interesting source of information on the processes of orthography emerging in newly created written languages.

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Last update: 24-08-2023