Revised request: Japanese transliteration variants

Frank Bennett biercenator at
Wed Sep 2 23:59:40 CEST 2009

On Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 5:37 PM, Kent Karlsson<kent.karlsson14 at> wrote:
> 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,

The Japanese term is "romaji" (in non-Hepburn transliteration!).
There term can be written either in logographic form (as normally done
today) or in Han characters (as was done in the Meiji era, and as
people with a strong sense of linguistic nationalism might do today).
So there is no risk of linguistic chauvanism with that term, at least
with respect to Japanese.

(That said, very happy to use another if preferred.)

> 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...".

The problem is that the other official variant standards are used, in
their pure form, only in the target application (the making of road
signs, the making of railway signs).  There are other variants, which
are made up by dictionary publishers, and defined only, if at all, in
the front matter of the dictionary concerned.

I am not intending to claim "hepburn" as the unique designation for a
particular system.  I only mean to point at the ALA-LC tables as the
most complete and accessible set of transliteration instructions for a
commonly used Hepburn romanization method.  If another party wishes to
register a subvariant, and it became necessary to distinguish this
common form from other variants, I would be happy to apply for a
subvariant at that point.  But I'm not sure there will be a demand for
that, and it seems better to keep the spec as simple as possible to
satisfy the current need (which is just to distinguish "text of the
hepburn sort" from "text of the kurei sort").

> 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.)
>    /kent k

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