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I found a Russian pangram:

В чащах юга жил-был цитрус...—да, но фальшивый экземпляръ!

I have two transliterations of it, but I don't know which one is correct:

- V chashchakh yuga zhil-byl tsitrus...--da, no falshiviy ekzemplyar!
- V chashchakh iugha zhil-byl tsitrus...--da, no fal'shivyi ekziempliar!
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Annie, actually what you are asking about is a specific subissue or romanization of Russian, for by transliteration it is usually understood a romanization with a narrower set of accepted latin symbols (most often, this subset consists of 26 digits for English alphabet).

As it said in the relevant Wikipedia article there exists

GOST 7.79-2000 System of Standards on Information, Librarianship, and Publishing-–Rules for Transliteration of the Cyrillic Characters Using the Latin Alphabet is the newest document on transliteration in the series of GOST standards.

GOST is sort of russian analogue of government-ruled RFC or EMCA docs. This very GOST, 7.79 actually is a romanization, it, for example suggests the use of š for ш, č for ч and even far more exotic ŝ for щ.

There's a bunch of different standards for romanization, used in different times and in different contexts. It is important to understand that de-facto none of this standards is universally recognized or used. For example, above-mentioned GOST is not used for transliterations in passports. But nevertheless we can do some analysis.

talking of differences between two string provided in the question:

  • yu or iu for ю. From 10 variants provided in Wikipedia: ju, ju, yu, ju, û, i͡u, yu, yu, yu, iu - yu looks like a clear winner, ju goes with a silver medal and iu is also quite acceptable.
  • ya or 'ia' for я. Once again, let's refer to the list: ja, ja, ya ja, â, i͡a, ya, ya, ya, ia. As we can see, ja is the leader.
  • soft sign transliteration (- here stands for not indicating it at all) - ʹ, ʹ, ʹ, ʹ, ʹ, ʹ, ʹ, ʼ, –, –.
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  • iuis different than ju, where the first is иу and the second is ю. – Alenanno Aug 13 '12 at 17:50
  • @Alenanno, have you checked the link in the answer? I'm just describing how it is. Personally I've set up completely different system of rules for transliteration. – shabunc Aug 13 '12 at 18:25
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Second one is more like what they use now to transliterate names in modern Russian passport for international usage. The first one is more like what Russian people used when there was no proper way to send cyrillic e-mails and short messages since it is more English-pronounced like, i.e. English people would read more like Russian, while the second one is quite synthetic.

One can't say what transliteration is correct. There are a lot of ways to transliterate created by scientists, lawyers and ordinary people. No transliteration is adopted as "official" one. Some years ago French-pronounced transliteration was used in passports. I think you may choice more suitable depending on situation.

BTW, why "экземпляръ"? In modern Russian language (since 1917) it is written as "экземпляр". Seems to me, if it is prerevolutionary pangram it should contain the letter "Ѣ" also.

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  • I think that the word is written экземпляръ simply because the typesetters needed the ъ somewhere for testing. Pangrams are often ridiculous or grammatically incorrect. – Philip Seyfi Aug 19 '12 at 15:27
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You cannot exactly transliterate Russian with pure Latin alphabet. For example, you cannot convey whether a consonant is soft.

In your example, the both transliterations even not consistent with themselves.

For example, in both words "falshiviy" and "ekzemplyar" the "l" sound is soft, and in the second word there is no "y" sound after "l". To indicate softness sometimes used apostrophe, so to be consistent the transliteration should be "fal'shiviy ekzempl'ar".

Another difficulty is that you cannot in English indicate that "g" to be pronounced as in "give" rather than as "zh".

Third difficulty is that in your transliterations "y" is used to transliterate "й" (a consonant as in yes), "ы" (a vovel that makes the preceding consonant hard) and to indicate softness of a consonant (in the case of "ly" in the last word).

That is in "byl" the b should be hard (in "zhil" zh is also hard so to be consistent it should be either both byl and zhyl or bil and zhil, but "bil" can be confuzed with word "бил" with soft "b")

in "ekzemplyar" "l" should be soft and there is no "y" sound

in "fal'shivyi" the v is hard, the "y" is a vowel (not consonant as in "yes") and the final "i" is a consonant as in "yes". With only two letters "i" and "y" you cannot distinguish three letters "й", "ы" and "и" in Russian.

So if to consider "y" to be always consonant as in "yes", g as in "give" and all consonants hard by default unless apostrophed, two character representing one phoneme grouped with brackets, the transliteration should be as follows:

V (ch)'a(sh)'a(kh) y'uga (zh)il-bil (ts)itrus...--da, no fal'(sh)iviy' ekzempl'ar!

But this is far from usual transliteration because English speakers would tend to pronounce consonants before "i" softly.

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  • The ь letter is usually rendered with an apostrophe in Latin transliterations. Oh by the way, it is possible to transliterate with Latin alphabet and it's accurate. It'd be better to reword it. – Alenanno Aug 13 '12 at 7:45
  • @Alenanno, there is no need to transliterate the ь letter because it is not pronounced. – Anixx Aug 13 '12 at 7:48
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    But it affects the pronunciation of the word, so it must be reported. Using ' is the best way. It's not a letter so you don't pronounce it, and you know that the previous letter will be palatalized. I now see you mentioned it, but it's not used "sometimes", it's the standard. – Alenanno Aug 13 '12 at 7:51
  • @Alenanno it is often used inconsistently, as in the given examples where it is used only once while there are 6 soft consonants in the sentence. – Anixx Aug 13 '12 at 7:57
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    That's a different issue. I meant that it's used as a standard in Linguistics. – Alenanno Aug 13 '12 at 8:00
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With correction of some mistake it would be like

В чащах юга жил-был цитрус...—да, но фальшивый экземпляр!

And i would transliterate this frase like

- V chaschakh yuga zhil-byl tsitrus...--da, no falshiviy ekzemplyar!

Anyway i think Anixx give very good answer for this question

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