What does academic community think of anglicising foreign names in their research? For example, saying Istanbul rather than İstanbul (with capital "İ"), or, author's name, Tasan, instead of Taşan.

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    Anglicize (or anglicise) is the traditional word.
    – Bill Barth
    Oct 1, 2014 at 16:04
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    Duplicate? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/18258/…
    – user102
    Oct 1, 2014 at 16:11
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    What are you referring to precisely? "Anglicizing" doesn't just mean leaving off diacritics. It means using English versions of names, e.g. writing Eugene Wigner instead of Wigner Jenő or Paul Erdős instead of Erdős Pál. The people from my examples chose to use the anglicized versions themselves. Forcing it on someone who didn't choose it would be pretty rude though IMO. (@BillBarth)
    – Szabolcs
    Oct 3, 2014 at 9:06
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    Eg naming standards of historical researchers or linguists can be different. For example a book specialized on Japanese history may use a stricter Hepburn notation than a business book or newspaper (which generally use a looser transcription more readable by general audience). Also, a specialist work more likely to distinguish local or historical names (Edo, Constantinople etc) for a place or place than a work for wider audience( Tokyo, Istanbul) .
    – Greg
    Oct 18, 2015 at 2:05

3 Answers 3


For anything that's not written in the Latin alphabet, use the standard transliteration from the relevant alphabet (e.g., "Vladimir Putin", not "Владимир Путин"). For people's names written in the Latin alphabet, keep the accents if possible. For place names, if there is a standard Anglicization, use that (e.g., "Cologne" rather than "Köln", "Istanbul" rather than "İstanbul"); otherwise, keep the accents (e.g., "Lübeck" and "Şanlıurfa").

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    One difficulty with this approach, for Turkic languages in particular, is that use the dotless-i can confuse search engines, leading to blank returns when users of non-Turkic keyboard layouts substitute this character for a dotted-i. For this reason, I have often seen names with this letter 'Anglicized' pragmatically.
    – Noktasizi
    Oct 1, 2014 at 19:28
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    Also consider that Irish "Doire" or "Derry" translates into English "Derry/Londonderry", and that "Gdańsk" might transliterate into "Gdańsk" or "Gdansk" or "Danzig" if you're talking about the present day, but almost always "Danzig" if you're talking about its Prussian/German/independent history. In both cases the "standard Anglicization" is somewhat disputed and I'm sure there are plenty of other examples. Oct 2, 2014 at 9:15
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    This is pretty much correct, although I would add that you should also look out for common Anglicizations of names, especially if the person is particularly famous. You wouldn't, for example, refer to Cristoforo Colombo but Christopher Columbus. (And, yes, it is usually historic people who have this problem.)
    – trlkly
    Oct 2, 2014 at 9:17
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    @trlkly: I assume that's partly because of the custom of the time: the fella himself would presumably have used a translated version of his name in each of Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese. I don't know that he ever spoke English, ofc. Whereas these days when Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro travels to and finds employment in England he doesn't call himself "Chris Ronald". Oct 2, 2014 at 9:20
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    "[K]eep the accents" should not be followed by examples that do not include accents.
    – arne.b
    Oct 2, 2014 at 9:29

EDITED to clarify the type of spelling changes I'm referring to, and to address other types of spelling changes.

As someone with an 'é' in my name, I'd say that it depends on whether or not there's a good reason to leave off the diacritical marks.

I'm aware that you may not know how to type special characters, or your keyboard may make it difficult to do so. So if you send me an email, I wouldn't be offended if you leave off the diacritical marks, spelling 'é' as 'e', for example.

I'm aware that computer file systems and programming languages sometimes don't deal elegantly with non-ASCII characters. So if you name a module in a computer program after me, I wouldn't be offended if you leave off the diacritical marks.

But if you publish something (e.g. an academic paper), there's no good reason not to spell my name correctly. (You can cut and paste, can't you?) I would be annoyed if you didn't take the trouble to do so. Not only have you been lazy, but you've made it more difficult for others to know the correct spelling of my name.

EDIT: As for names that aren't written in the Latin alphabet, I agree with David Richerby that it makes sense to transliterate them. Unless the name is extremely well-known, the first time I use the name I would probably add the original name in parenthesis. That way, the reader can search for additional information under both names.

Of course, if Владимир Путин chooses to go by Vladimir Putin, I would respect that. I wouldn't insist on writing Владимир Путин.

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    Sometimes the Anglicized version of a name is much more familiar to the target audience. To use David Richerby's example, many English speakers know "Vladimir Putin" but would not recognize "Владимир Путин". This isn't an issue with European languages that use essentially the same alphabet as English, but with an entirely different alphabet, the question arises: do you include the original along with the Anglicization? (Or instead of it? I think that makes less sense though.) P.S. IGTF mini-reunion, yay :-)
    – David Z
    Oct 2, 2014 at 4:42
  • @DavidZ Have both?
    – Raphael
    Oct 2, 2014 at 5:38
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    I don't disagree with the pragmatics of this answer, nor the specific example of the accented e. But I do think it's a bit narrow with only referring to the Latin alphabet. Combine your pragmatics with David Richerby's answer, and I think we have the ultimate answer.
    – trlkly
    Oct 2, 2014 at 9:20
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    @trikly actually, it only refers to the Latin alphabet. The name on my birth certificate is written in Cyrillic, and I don't expect anybody to use the Cyrillic original when writing in a language using the Latin alphabet. In fact, I suspect that, if your text has two Cyrillic names and use them un-transliterated, many Latin-writers will not be able to distinguish them without extraordinary mental effort. So, this really only applies to Latin names with a few special characters in them.
    – rumtscho
    Oct 2, 2014 at 16:36
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    @DavidZ You're confusing Anglicization with Romanization. Anglicization is, e.g., refering to Cristoforo Colombo/Cristóbal Colón as "Christopher Columbus". You're perfectly capable of reading the Italian and Spanish but (as a native English speaker), you're used to a different version of the name. Romanization is converting something to the Latin alphabet. Native English speakers will have difficulty dealing with Владимир Путин (Putin) or 孔夫子 (Confucius) in writing because they have no idea how to vocalize it: it's just a bunch of squiggles unless you know the relevant writing system. Oct 3, 2014 at 9:02

As with so many questions in life it depends. In Irish there's one major accent, known as a síneadh fada (pronounced sheena fa-da, meaning length accent, usually abbreviated to fada). It occurs over vowels only i.e. á, é, í, ó, ú are the long equivalents of the vowels a, e, i, o, u and it dramatically changes the sound (and as I'll illustrate below, the meaning).

The canonical example that I use here is the word "sean" pronounced in the Munster dialect as "shan"; this means old. Put a fada over the a and it becomes the name Seán (Irish for John, pronounced Shawn); put it over the e and and it becomes a verb meaning to disavow or repudiate, pronounced shane. So with ostensibly the same word, the accents create three different words which you can construct a sentence from:

Séan sean Seán [Disavow old John]

This is one example why you might want to spell words as they are originally.

Another reason, and this is purely opinion, is that it feels somewhat arrogant to me to insist that your pronunciation and spelling is so much better than the people who live there.

In summing up I'd exhort you to focus on the impact of your message rather than the intent; IOW tailor it for your audience.

  • Great example. Another fun one is the difference between féar marbh sa gairdín (not an uncommon occurence) and fear marbh sa gairdín (much more unusual). Oct 2, 2014 at 12:16
  • Heh, don't forget your séimhiú; in both cases that should read "sa ghairdín" Remember that "in" anything triggers this where it's possible viz. sa chrann "in the tree"; san fhómhar "in the autumn" ;-)
    – noonand
    Nov 24, 2014 at 12:11
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    Gah, I originally had a séimhiú in both places, then, doubting my memory, googled it and found "sa gairdín". But now that I re-google, I don't know where I found that. I am ashamed, and I hereby hand back my A in Leaving Cert Irish. Nov 24, 2014 at 12:15
  • For those wondering: @ArtiePrendergast-Smith's two sentences translate as: dead grass in the garden and dead man in the garden
    – noonand
    Mar 31, 2015 at 13:16

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