Revised request: Japanese transliteration variants

Frank Bennett biercenator at
Wed Sep 2 23:45:52 CEST 2009

On Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 2:14 AM, CE Whitehead<cewcathar at> wrote:
> Hi.
> Here is the description field from Frank's current hepburn subtag request:
>     > Description: Revised Hepburn romanization.
> Kent Karlsson is right; Frank Bennett's request does seem only to cover the
> "Revised Hepburn romanization."

Yes, that is the intention.  For our purposes this will be sufficient;
other academics that I have spoken with are not aware of the fine
distinctions between the various forms, or of their precise official
or quasi-official name.  Guidance from a publisher would likely to be
in the form, "Use Hepburn to translterate Japanese names and terms",
or "Use macrons on long vowels when transliterating Japanese terms",
with case-by-case guidance on the details.

All of the variants of Hepburn can safely be described as "hepburn".
If it becomes necessary to distinguish them, sub-variants could be
added in the future.  But as any of the variants can (I believe) be
automatically generated from the others, there might not be a demand
for that, so long as the content to which the tag applies is amenable
to mangling.

> Kent Karlsson kent.karlsson14 at
> Wed Sep 2 10:37:28 CEST 2009
>> I support "Frank's third revised proposal" (to be split into three
>> submissions...).
>> Note that it covers only Revised Hepburn (not too keen on the word
>> "romanization", but that is very minor). Contrary to Doug's messages,
>> it does not cover other variants of Hepburn transcription/transliteration.
>> That may need a bit more discussion (IMHO), esp. since the Wikipedia
>> article says "In Japan itself, there are three variants officially
>> mandated for various uses...".
> Thanks for noting that the different variants are mandated for various uses
> in Japan.  I am not the expert on Japanese on this list,
> but it seems from the information in the Wikipedia article you cite that
> revised Hepburn may be the
> Japanese "Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport standard"???
> (I'm inferring this from the handling of the 'n':
> ". . . the rendering of syllabic n as m before certain
> consonants is not used"
> in either Revised Hepburn or in the variety used by the Ministry of Land,
> Infrastruture, and Transport),
> as well as the orthography used by the Library of Congress??
> I don't have that much of a problem with [hepburn]'s referring to this one
> variety--it's first come, first serve here, but Kent Karlsson does bring up
> some important issues.

There is some variation in practice on the use of n versus m in, say
"Gunma" (a prefecture north of Tokyo).  The most well-defined standard
that I have been able to find in English is in the ALA-LC tables and
supporting comments.  The genesis of the others is less clear, at
least from documents available on the Net.  It's not a happy
situation, as this page makes painfully clear (listing 169 variants
for the romanization of the given name of former Prime Minister

At this point it's probably safest to simply point at "hepburn" as
distinct from "kunrei", and to include "nihon" for Nihon-shiki,
because an organization has gone to the effort to have it appended to
ISO-3602.  These three romanization systems are commonly recognized as
being distinct from one another.

>> It also detaches nihon-shiki as not being a variant of kunrei-shiki.
>> (An earlier proposal had the subtag "kunrei" covering both kunrei-shiki
>> and nihon-shiki, which maybe was not intended.)
> ???

Yes, as I wrote earlier in putting forward the third revised proposal,
Nihon-shiki has an independent history in its own right.  I suggested
handling it as "ja-Latn-kunrei-strict", to shorten the tag name, and
to reflect the ISO registration.  On second thought, it occurred to me
that the ISO registration is not carved in stone, and that treating
"nihon" as a separate subtag can be justified on the basis of
unchanging historical factors.

> Here is the earlier proposal I think Kent is referring to:
>     > Type: variant
>     > Subtag: kunrei
>     > Description: Kunrei-shiki romanization.
>     > Prefix: ja-Latn
>     > Type: variant
>     > Subtag: nihonshiki
>     > Description: Nihon-shiki romanization, as defined in ISO-3602 Strict.
>     > Prefix: ja-Latn
> It looks to me like the subtag name has now been changed???  (from
> [nihonshiki] to [nihon]??)

Yes, Addison pointed out that the first tag was too long, it has just
been shortened.
- Hide quoted text -

> Best,
> --C. E. Whitehead
> cewcathar at
>>    /kent k

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