Learn English – Usage of kh in transliteration of Cyrillic, hebrew and others


I'm not a native english speaker and I'm sometimes baffled by the appearance of "kh" in Russian names and other words (for instance the russian lunar rover "Lunokhod"). In this case, the sensible transliteration would be "h", as it is in the original Cyrillic and in most transliteration for other languages (this is why this English transliteration looks very alien and hard to read compared to slavic languages with latin script, even though the pronunciation is almost the same).

In this case, the pronunciation is very close to the hard "h", as in "hospital", "Hungary", and to "ch" in "loch".

I assume "h" was not used because people may choose to interpret it as a silent letter. Am I correct about this?

"ch" is also problematic, because in some other words ("technology") it's pronounced as "k" (again in contrast to most other languages that have a version of this widespread Greek-based word that is pronounced with "h", as is the greek letter χ).

"kh" seems like the least suitable choice, as it explicitly suggests "k", as in "Khan (Wrath of Khan)". Trying to pronounce it phonetically results in Klingon-sounding sputtering noise.

So, what is the reasoning for this weird combination of consonants and what are the arguments against other reasonable choices that are already used in other English words that have the same phoneme?

Best Answer

"Kh" means Х & is used to indicate /x/, a rougher sound than /h/, although Russian is undergoing a sound shift & /x/ is lowering from [x] to [x̞], which is less rough & sounds more like [h].

What I find silly is how Й is commonly transliterated as "Y". Y is already used for Ы. It should be "J", which is what is used for Polish. Й occupies the same alphabet position as J. "Ygyatta" is not "Ыгятта".