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I'm writing a philosophy paper relying heavily on Aristotle and discussing several of his primary terms, including their etymologies. Therefore I say words like ἐντελέχεια and θεωρεῖν a lot. Since a fundamental premise of my essay is that we lack straightforward English equivalents for these words, and their etymologies give us important clues to their meanings, I have to leave them untranslated. But untranslated does not necessarily mean written out in an unfamiliar script---I could transliterate these words as entelekheia and theorein.

Other writers who share my views on translation go both ways on this. For instance Heidegger, in Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy, reproduces Greek script, while Christopher Long, in The Ethics of Ontology, transliterates. (Though obviously their audiences are very different.) My advisor has not expressed any preference on this matter.

Given this lack of deciding factors, what speaks for, and what speaks against, transliterating all the Greek words I use? Which audiences prefer one over the other? How would the decision to pursue publication (I will almost certainly not pursue this, but I am curious) change things?

  • Why not both? Unless you're publishing in a classics journal you can't assume everyone can read the Greek alphabet. – gerrit Jun 9 at 7:56
  • @gerrit Here's a sentence from the essay: "Heidegger 2009, §17 considers ἕξις more fully but only as a preliminary step to a discussion of πάθη and ἀρετή." Not a great sentence but I think it would only be worse if it read "considers ἕξις, hexis, more fully but only as a preliminary step to a discussion of πάθη, pathe, and ἀρετή, arete." Your comment prompts a related one, which maybe I should explicitly ask elsewhere: how many US virtue ethicists can read the Greek alphabet? But answers here should be more general, not restricted to this paper. – krod Jun 9 at 8:21
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    I would write "...considers ἕξις (hexis) more fully..." – gerrit Jun 9 at 8:47
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    Greek and transiteration on first use, then transliteration thereafter? For a Philosophy paper not every reader will be sufficiently confident in reading Greek to not be distracted; if it were a Classics paper you could assume they would. – Owain Jun 9 at 15:23
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    I've seen Greek with parenthesized transliteration on first use, then Greek only thereafter. – Andreas Blass Jun 9 at 16:12

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