In our native languages, pronunciations of the words are different if we write it in normal English. For that reason, we have a different set of alphabet. Such writing helps us speak correct pronunciation. This specially happens in writing language like Sanskrit in English.

What do we call that English? Here is the example:

Sanskrit written in special English

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    From the title, I came here expecting a Morse code question... but this is much more interesting, in my opinion.
    – Ghotir
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 18:01
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    It's important to understand the difference between a language and a script. You're transcribing from Devanagari script to Latin script, but the language is still Sanskrit, not English.
    – wjandrea
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 4:45
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because while this is a good linguistics question, it is not about learning English.
    – user3169
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 19:50
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    @user3169 it actually is on topic: OP is searching for an expression to describe the concept of „dots and dashes around letters“ in English (tag: word-request), not about linguistics. The rest is simply explaining the context of the question. That I (and others) have chosen to add some linguistic remarks is like some„extra background information“ I gave to round off my answer. The core question asks for the term diacritics, which I answer in the last sentence of my answer below.
    – Stephie
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 7:11
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    In addition to the answer (diacricic marks), you might have a specific name for the transliteration rules and letter/mark meanings. For example, I'm familiar with Chinese being written in “pinyin”, which is what I would ask for if I wanted a Latin character representation. Wade is a different one.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 15:30

4 Answers 4


Technically, you are not writing “in English”, you are using a Latin script1 with diacritics2 to transcribe3 Sanskrit.

If you want a writer to use the “dots and dashes”, ask them to “use diacritic marks”.

1 the letters of the English and many other western languages
2 the dots and dashes
3 to write in another script

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    Ad 1. Technically it's not "letters of English (...) language" but letters of Latin language reused later by English and many other languages;) Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 12:33
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    @el.pescado that's what I said? I was referring to everyday use, not historic roots.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 13:04
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    Sometimes diacritics are (less accurately) referred to as "accents". I feel your average speaker would be more likely to understand that term than "diacritics" but I might be wrong.
    – Muzer
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 16:10
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    @Muzer: I'd only expect accents to cover á, à and â. This already doesn't include German umlauts like ä and other rather common diacritics like ñ or ç. That said, I'm from Germany and influenced by local customs, so YMMV (though I guess the situation would be similar in the UK/Ireland).
    – hoffmale
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 17:25
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    @hoffmale All the diacritics (including accents, umlaut, vergulilla, cedilla) change the sound and are thus generally covered by being called "accents" or "accent marks" in English. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 9:17

The process of converting the letters of one script into the letters of another is called "transliteration"


transliterated; transliterating

transitive verb

:to represent or spell in the characters of another alphabet

— transliteration [...] noun


Indeed the scheme used in your OP is called IAST (International Alphabet for Sanskrit Transliteration).

You should ask for a "transliteration" or a transliterated version.

Now, for sure, sarvasya chaahaN hridi ... is also a transliteration, but it's not an academic/scientific transliteration. Both of these words ('academic' and 'scientific') are used for precise, scholarly transliterations of Cyrillic and I see no reason why they cannot be used more generally. If you want a precise, scholarly transliteration, what you must really do is specify the scheme, which is more important. There is nothing inherently wrong with the Indian government-approved Hunterian transliteration which uses few diacritics, or Harvard-Kyoto which uses its own schemes with no diacritics at all, but also doesn't strive to reflect pronunciation closely. So what you must do is specify the transliteration scheme which you are using. For example, IAST will transliterate ए as e whereas ISO15919 will use ē. Both, however, will transliterate आ as ā. Many transliteration schemes use diacritics. You can ask for a transliteration with diacritics, but you must specify the scheme, because different schemes may use different diacritics or use diacritics for different purposes.


These are called diacritical marks.

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    So, what should I ask? Use 'diacritical English' for the quotes?
    – Maulik V
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 4:58
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    No, ask them to "transliterate the text into Roman letters with diacritics" or "transliterate using IAST" if they know what IAST is.
    – Dalbergia
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 14:24

Writing foreign language in English alphabet is called Romanization because the letters we use are actually Latin.

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    That doesn’t address the “dots and dashes” part which was the main part of the question.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 15:48

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