When translating from a language that does not use roman characters, like Chinese, do I include the original characters or a transliteration? And how do I alphabetize titles of nonroman works?

In its publications, the MLA prefers to give the original characters (script) and a translation for titles and quotations; it also includes transliteration in some of its publications, especially those geared for nonspecialists. Nowadays all three elements can be useful to readers searching for a source on the Internet. Aside from this practical reason, we feel that using the original characters shows a respect for the foreign language that once was generally not shown in academic work.

In the text of your essay, include the elements in whatever order makes sense in your discussion. For example, there is more than one way to present an Arabic term:

matn (متن; “substance”)
متن (matn; “substance”)
substance (متن; matn)

In the list of works cited, titles of works in languages that do not use roman characters should appear in this order: original characters, then transliteration (if included), then translation. If all the entries under an author’s name are in the foreign language, alphabetize according to the rules of the language (list 1). If some of the entries are in the foreign language and some in English, provide transliterations and alphabetize by transliteration (list 2).

Works-Cited List 1: All Russian Entries

Šklovskij, Viktor. Воскрешение слова. Teorija literatury, philolog.petrsu.ru/filolog/shklov.htm.
———. Жизнь художника Федотова [The Life of the Artist Fedotov]. Izdatelʹstvo detskoy literatury, 1936.
———. За и против: Заметки о Достоевском [For and Against: Remarks about Dostoevsky]. Bookmate, bookmate.com/reader/heQXMFr9.
———. О теории прозы [On the Theory of Prose]. Ardis Publishers, 1929.
———. Ход коня: Сборник статей [The Knight’s Move: A Collection of Articles]. Gelikon, 1923.

Works-Cited List 2: Mix of Russian and English Entries

Shklovsky, Victor. Ход коня: Сборник статей [Khod konja; Sbornik statej]. Gelikon, 1923.
———. Mayakovsky and His Circle. Translated by L. Feilier, Pluto Press, 1974.
———. О теории прозы [O teorii prozy]. Ardis Publishers, 1929.
———. Theory of Prose. Translated by Benjamin Sher, Dalkey Archive Press, 1998.
———. Воскрешение слова [Voskreshenie slova]. Teorija literatury, philolog.petrsu.ru/filolog/shklov.htm.
———. За и против: Заметки о Достоевском [Za i protiv: Zametki o Dostoevskom]. Bookmate, bookmate.com/reader/heQXMFr9.
———. Жизнь художника Федотова [Zhiznʹ khudozhnika Fedotova]. Izdatelʹstvo detskoy literatury, 1936.
———. Zoo; or, Letters Not about Love. Translated by Richard Sheldon, Cornell UP, 1971.

Note that we provide not the original script but only a transliteration for the name of a person or publisher.

Published 8 February 2017

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