Crossroads of Mongolian Scripts
(64th Meeting Budapest, 2022)
At the last PIAC in Ulaanbaatar, as part of an introduction to the problems of Unicode for the classical or Uyghur script (i. e. Written Mongol), I announced the forthcoming presentation of a database I had started in the late 1990s as part of my (former) work as subject specialist at the Berlin State Library. It originally consisted of an orthographic checklist for Mongolian terms, which proved necessary for the purpose of cataloguing Mongol books and periodicals. The database now contains over 7000 entries in both Cyrillic and Written Mongol. While Mongolian books in Cyrillic script, as they are usually published in Mongolia, do not cause any problems for processing in data systems such as library catalogues, the cataloguing and processing of materials in Written Mongol as encoded in Unicode is difficult to impossible in practice. This is due to the transcriptional nature of the encoding, which follows a traditional understanding of the script that is transcription, not transliteration. What is encoded in Unicode is essentially an assumed phonetics, which must first be determined and, as an assumption, is inherently prone to error, especially in the case of geographical terms or proper names. A cursory recording of Written Mongol materials based on the simple reality of the script, recognisable without additional interpretation, is only possible with the use of a transliteration. The database matches Mongolian lexical terms in Cyrillic script with the corresponding Mongol spellings recorded in the Romanisation developed by Michael Balk and Juha Janhunen, an unambiguous transliteration. The lecture will give an introduction to this database, which can be expected to be accessible via the internet at the time of the conference. It is hosted by CrossAsia, an internet portal for Asian Studies operated by the East Asia Department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.