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 »  Articles Overview  »  Technology  »  CAT Tools  »  MyGreeklish to Standard Greeklish Translator needed

MyGreeklish to Standard Greeklish Translator needed

By Marina Varouta | Published  09/22/2006 | CAT Tools | Recommendation:
Contact the author
Quicklink: http://ita.proz.com/doc/930

A short history

So-called Greeklish – or "ASCII Greek" – is the transliteration of Modern Greek in Latin characters of the ASCII code. This hybrid language was born of the necessity of sending e-mails in Greek, participating in Greek forums, sending instant messages in Greek, at a time where Unicode Transformation Format was not supported and Greek characters could not be correctly transmitted by the Internet Service Providers. Many entire homepages were also written in Greeklish at that time.

Today, most computer systems, software and ISP’s support Modern Greek, yet nevertheless Greeklish is still being utilised, as a matter of habit, of taste, but also often as a matter of need, as will be discussed below. There are still some websites written entirely in Greeklish, although this is not the rule. The use of Greeklish is generally considered to be an indication of a lack of skills in website creation and a lack of knowledge of the Greek language, though it is currently very much used for less "official" purposes including e-mailing, instant messaging or chatting with friends and family, as well as in recreation and hobby forums. Marketing or professional communications avoid the use of Greeklish.

Transcription standards and uses

The Greek Standards Organization ELOT has proposed a standard transcription for the transliteration of Greek into Latin characters, which is not always known or used by the general public. Unofficially, any transliteration is possible and viable, provided that the text is understandable by its recipient.

The different transcriptions vary according to:

  • Phonetic factors. Every letter or combination of letters has a corresponding written expression that "sounds" almost similar in another language. The phonetic factor often depends on the location of the user. For example, Greek people born in the USA or in Australia are using the writing « th » for "delta" (δ) or "theta" (θ); Greek people located in Germany are sometimes using « w » for beta (β) and « v » for fi (φ); French speaking Greeks prefer « ou » to « u » when transcribing « ου » [u], because of the pronunciation of the French « u ».
  • Visual factors, including the external aspect of the letter, what the letter "seems like" or appears as. This character may not necessarily be a letter; it might also be a number, a symbol, or combination of characters and symbols: 8 for theta (θ), w for omega (ω).
  • Dactylographic factors, namely, the position of the character key on the keyboard. This means pretending to be using a Greek keyboard layout, while you are using a QWERTY style keyboard and characters. What comes out on the screen is neither phonetically nor orthographically similar to the corresponding Greek word. This type of transcription is mostly utilised by computer users who are very familiar to touch typing and to the physical position of all the characters on a Greek keyboard.
  • What could be referred to as a psychological factor, relating to the personality of the user. Every user may adopt - as is convenient for them - the phonetic, orthographic or dactylographic transcriptions, or better yet combine them to develop their own version of Greeklish. In chat rooms or forums, users are often recognized by their individual way of writing by their fellow chatters.

Here some examples of Greeklish transcription.

Phonetic
Transcription

Visual
Transcription

Dactylographic
Transcription

Comments

β

v

b

A « w » transcription (by reference to German) is less usual.

γ

g or y

y

g

In Greek, gamma (γ) followed by i or e is phonetically similar to [j] (e.g. English "yellow"), that is why its phonetic version can be « y ».

η

i

n

h

In the same way, the diphthongs οι and ει are transcribed by « i » (phonetic), or respectively by « oi » and « ei » (visual or dactylographic transcription).

υ

i

u

y

θ

th

8, 9, @, &

u

Choosing a visual transcription depends on the aesthetic sensibilities of the user. « 8 » is the most used, probably also because of its position near to theta (θ) on the keyboard (position of u on QWERTY keyboard).

ν

n

v

same as phonetic

The visual transcription of v can be confused with the phonetic transcription of β.

ξ

ks, x

3, $

j

The second visual transcription is very rare.

ρ

r

p

same as phonetic

The visual transcription of "ro" (ρ) can be confused with the phonetic or dactylographic transcription of "pi" (π).

ψ

ps

y, \|/

c

The second visual transcription is very rare.

ω

o

w, _O_

v

The second visual transcription is very rare.

μπ

b, mb

mp

Phonetic variants of « mb », « nd » and « ng», because the pronunciation of the diphthongs can vary according to their position within a word.

ντ

d, nd

nt

γκ

g, ng

gk

γγ

g, ng

gg

The versions « ngg »and « ngk », are also used.

Double consonants (κκ, λλ, μμ, νν, ππ, σσ, ττ) do not change the pronunciation of words, and are therefore not always transcribed by double Latin consonants (k or kk, l or ll, m or mm, n or nn, p or pp, s or ss, t or tt). As far as accent marks are concerned (ά, ό, έ, ί, etc.), they are generally omitted. Rarely, they are transposed either before or after the accentuated syllable; this occurs in order to avoid ambiguities: e.g. « η » is the singular feminine definite article, whilst « ή » (accentuated) is the conjunction "or", so the possible transcriptions of the Greek "or" would be i and h (ambiguous), or 'i, i', 'h and h' (less ambiguous).

Automatic converters for Greeklish

Related software and freeware exists, such as:

Whilst the Greek to Greeklish converters function generally well – transcribing of course to a "standard Greeklish", without a "personal touch" – Greeklish to Greek converters lack efficiency. The most common problem is that they cannot "guess" accent marks and that they only support "Standard Greeklish".

For instance, we tried to transcribe the following "Standard Greeklish" sentence:

Geia soy Mairh, ti kaneis? Theleis na pame sinema?
(Hello Mary, how are you? Would you like to go to the cinema?)

The correct Greek version of the sentence is:

Γεια σου Μαίρη, τί κάνεις; Θέλεις να πάμε σινεμά;

The conversion rendered by Greeklish.net converter is:

Γεια σου Μαιρη, τι κανεισ? Θελεις να παμε σινεμα?

This conversion lacks accentuation and has abundant errors. For example, the final sibilant (ς) was recognized in the first sentence as "σ" (also a sibilant, but normally used at the beginning or in the middle of a word). This was due to the fact that we used the question mark"?". The question mark was not transliterated (the Greek question mark is ";").

The conversion of the same sentence by the Institute for Language Processing converter is rendered as:

Γεια σου Μαίρη, τι κανεις? Θέλεις να πάμε σινεμά?

This conversion only lacks Greek question marks and an accent on "κάνεις". Apparently, the converter integrates a dictionary helping restore the accents, but this dictionary is not perfectly complete.

Now lets suppose that you cannot write in "Standard Greeklish" and you spell it like this:

Gia su Mairi, ti kanis? 8elis na pame cinema?

The result would be:

Για συ Μαιρι, τι κανισ? θλις να παμε ψινεμα? (Greeklish.net converter)
Για σου Μαίρη, τι κανεις? θέλεις να πάμε cinema? (Institute for Language Processing converter)

Automatic Greeklish to Greek conversion could be ameliorated through the following means:

  • including all the different Greeklish versions (at least the phonetic and visual);
  • combining this with the use of integrated dictionaries, able to "check and guess" the word;
  • lemmatising the dictionaries, i.e. including the inflected forms of the words or verbs; and
  • avoiding complex semantic, syntactic or grammatical analysis, which sometimes results in more errors than positive effects.

Why does Greeklish subsist?

Greeklish is said to be "unaesthetic" but there are some valid reasons explaining why Greeklish did not disappear as soon as technology was (or was supposed to be) able to permit the transmission of Greek characters.

Technical reasons:

1) The installation of Greek characters on a system can sometimes prove difficult or impossible – for example, for users working on public computers, offices or internet access points, where installations are restricted to administrative users.

2) Internet Providers are still sometimes unable to transmit Greek characters. They transcribe it to a hybrid "Mathematical-French" language:

  • Unicode version: Δεν το δίνω
  • Greek ISO version: ÏƒÎµΟƒΟ‡ΟŒΞ»ΞΉΞΏ στην
  • Untranscribable UTF version: & # 9 1 7 ; & # 9 4 3 ; & # 9 5 7 ; & # 9 4 5 ; & # 9 5 3; & # 9 6 3; & # 9 5 1 ; & # 9 5 6

Thus users are sometimes asked to "resend their previous e-mail, because it was unreadable", even in professional situations. In this case, getting the message through proves to be more important than the aesthetics of the message.

Ergonomic reasons:

When writing quickly in Greek, integrating words into Latin characters, such as names, places and web references, proves unergonomic: the user is obliged to switch between Greek and English (or other non-Greek) keyboard settings every few seconds. That is why there are still many supporters of Greeklish for some informal kinds of communication (instant messaging, informal e-mailing, informal forum discussions) where rapidness is more important than orthography and aesthetics.

Cultural reasons: E-mailing and instant messaging is very broadly used by thousands of Greek immigrants who wish to remain in contact with their friends and families, or meet other Greek people on the Internet and keep in contact with their culture. If they are second- or third-generation immigrants, it means that they were not born in Greece, they did not necessarily learn Greek at school and their everyday work and communication language is definitely not Greek. They probably learned to speak Greek at home, or during conversations, visits to the "homeland", social events, etc. Those people do not necessarily know how to write in Greek and perhaps rightfully so, because it is not their primary language. Greeklish is for them a necessity: they create their own transcriptions, often similar to the pronunciation and particularities of the country in which they were born. Communication is for them much more important that aesthetics.



Visit Marina Varouta's website


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