Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Measure of Uncommon Decency

On Tuesday I marked the passing of Kōno Sumiko, the victim of the 1994 Matsumoto Sarin gas attack whose husband Yoshiyuki's early raising of alarm at the unfolding calamity led the police to finger him as being the perpetrator of the crime. I expressed some doubt at the time that the media would take a moment to note the police's execrable and relentless campaign of leaks and innuendo that attempted to pin the blame on Kōno Yoshiyuki or the media's unthinking presumption of Yoshiyuki's guilt.

I do not know about the media's reaction but Hayashi Motō Moto'o, the newly appointed Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission (essentally the civilian head of the National Police Force) paid a visit to the family home this afternoon to offer his condolences and an apology for the additional misery caused the family by the mistaken assumption of Yoshiyuki's complicity.

With the forbearance of the saint he must be, Kōno Yoshiyuki thanked Chairman Hayashi for coming.

A small tableau of simple decency meeting fearsome dignity in defiance of an oft brazen, crass and uncaring world.


Anonymous said...

The name of the newly appointed Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission is 林幹雄, of which 林 is the family name (or Japanese first name) and the rest is the given name. The given name used to be rendered into Kana script as "motowo" (transliteration of the Historical Kana script by Extended Hepburn System) explicitly indicating three syllables. Here "w" is a syllable separator. But advocators of phonetic spelling missed this function of the consonant and when they found chance they did not hesitate to proclaim the prohibition of the seemingly redundant consondants, namely "w" and the medial "h" except when immediately followed by "a", the most open vowel. where they were realized as a bilabial semivowel. Today the Chaiman himself spells his given nam as "motoo", but I am afraid he would be surprised to find the last two "o"s which belong to different characters (logographs) folded into a single "ō".


MTC said...


Your criticism is apt. In line with my habit of inserting an apostrophe with the isolated "n" in such names as Jun'ichirō, I will place an apostrophe in the minister's name.

I will have to live with the fact that it makes his name look Polynesian.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry, but I don't think your solution is a happy one. Insertion of an apostrophe with the isolated "n" is prescribed in any Romanization systems, but to use it between the adjoining vowels is quite different. It may be an extension to the Conventional Hepburn System, but you must define what kind of vowel pairs should be treated as such. Perhaps "oo" of Gendai Kana that is derived from Historical Kana of "o`o" (an inverted apostrophe stands for a medial "h" in EHS) might be a candidate. And you can differentiate 大黒 and 小黒 without recource to the cumbersome macron-capped letter. But it would open Pandora's Box. And methinks the medial "h" be defferent from "w" in that it is an adhesive separator or intro-syllabic separator.


Anonymous said...

It was when I found your essay "Out of Their Right Minds" posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 that I came here for the first time. It was about the Diet member study group headed by Hiranuma Takeo (I should like to spell this with "w" as "Takewo", the exact transliteration of the Historical Kana rendering of 赳夫), which was described as "intent on reintroducing pre-1945 orthography system.

I was wondering which of the two homophones SHISAKU stood for, 思索(thinking, speculation) and 施策 (policy), But now I am quite sure that it stands for the former.

So please let me continue a little in my speculation about post-1945 orthography reform. I wrote that the advocates of the new system (if it could be called by the name of "system" at all) missed the function of the consonants of "w" and the medial "h". Hence "Motoo" instead of "Motowo" or "Ooguro" instead of "O`oguro". The latter spellings are transliteraion of Historical Kana rendering by EHS (Extended Hepburn System or 擴張ヘボン式). Juxtaposition of two "o" is often folded into a single "ō", but because of cumbersomeness of using macron-capped letter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prescribed use of macron-less letter instead. And now we see "oguro" in place of "O`oguro", but the case of "moto" for original "motowo" is rather rare.

In "The Run on the Fukuda Begins" posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 麻生太郎, the LDP Secretary-General is spelled as "Aso Tarō". I am not sure how the family name was rendered in Kana before the war, but highly probable rendering was "Asau", because the reading of the first character was "asa". That the reading of "郎" is "rau", this you can verify by any 漢和字典. So both his family name and given name should have "au" in Historical Kana rendering. All we had need was just to say pronounce "au" as that of English word "autumn". But here again they missed. I don't say they were out of their right minds, but perhaps the epigoni or officials of present-day Ministry of Education or that of Foreign Affairs are. Because of their prescription, 麻生太郎 is forced to spell his name as "Aso Taro" regardless of its Polynesian look.


MTC said...


Thank you for your suggestions and your information.

The transliteration I have chosen for Moto'o is in accordance with my own internal sense of readability.

As for Aso Tarō's surname, your speculation about the linkage between the kanji and the pre-war orthography is almost certainly correct. The authorities had a choice, though, either - 1) mess up the historical linkage 2) abandon the unification of pronunciation and orthography. Since the whole point of the exercise was the latter, I do not begrudge the elimination of the "au."

Anonymous said...


Thank you for you comment. But I must confess I cannot quite understand what you mean by abandonment of unification of pronunciation and orthography. Perhaps in your eyes, romanization is abandonment of Kana orthography. If so I should say it is the moot point. I mean transliterarion rather than transcription.

As for elimination of "au" from established script, we have all the reasons to begrudge it for it is tantamount to prohibition of the Bible in a Christian nation or that of Koran in an Islamic nation to say the least.

And the term "historical" may be a misnomer when applied to Kana script. It sounds as if it had its time when it was phonetically apropriate but I think it should be construed as "panchronic" in opposition to phonetic or "synchronic" spelling.

But perhaps, I should make my point about orthography clearer first. I am trying to say that the orthography reform introduced after 1945 was not so rational after all. What makes the new Kana script look more rational is only that each Kana letter represents one and only one sound and that each sound is represented by one and only one Kana.

No redundancy in Kana syllabary. This was achieved by getting rid of redundant Kanas or in terms of transliterated Romanization, redundant consonants; namely "w", medial "h", "j" and "dz". Here "j" stands for voiced counterpart of "ch" and "dz" that of "ts". It is very confusing that the letter "j" is used in two ways, as the voiced counterpart of "ch" and as that of "sh". "J" should be exclusively used for the voiced counterpart of "ch", and "zh" should be introduced for the voiced counterpart of "sh" if transliterational romanization should be demanded. And EHS is a transliterational system of the full set of Kana syllabary.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Please read "学生時代に憶えた懐かしい唄の数々". Lyrics are shown in Historical Kana script together with the EHS transliteration.

Henry Bradley began his "On the Relations between Spoken and Written Language--with special reference to English" as follows:

// from Bradley

Many of the advocates of spelling reform are in the habit of asserting, as if it were an axiom admitting of no dispute, that the sole function of writing is to represent sounds. It appears to me that this is one of those spurious truisms that are not intelligently believed by any one, but which continue to be repeated because nobody takes the trouble to consider what they really mean. I do not merely deny the truth of the pretended axiom as a description of the relations between speech and writing as they exist at the present day in English and other languages. I assert that, so far as peoples of literary culture are concerned, there never was a time when this formula would have correctly expressed the facts; and that it would still remain false, even if an accurately phonetic spelling had been in universal use for hundreds of years.

// end of Bradley

And Jespersen his "On some disputed points in English grammar" in the following way:

// from Jespersen

I think it is Voltaire who says that animals are not so stupid as is generally supposed: Les bêtes ne sont pas si bêtes qu'on croit généralement. In the same way I am inclined to think that human beings are not so stupid as most people think, and especially that when something has been done or thought for a long time by many people, there must generally be some justification for it, and it wiil be found to be not so completely irrational as clever men nowadays may thinkt it. I have found this applicable to languauge, which represents, if not the collective wisdom of a nation, at any rate customs of expression and habits of thought which have satisfied the needs of thousnds, sometimes of many millions of people. There are things in most languages which when you come to think of them, look strange, sometimes even quite abusrd, and which are therefore often condemned as illogical by grammarians; who in some cases try to abolish them, while in other cases they find them so firmly rooted that with a shrug of the shoulders they give up any atempts at getting rid of them. But some of them may be defensible after all.

// end of Jespersen

Enough is said by these authorities. And it is about English, the spelling of which is far more notorious than Japanese Kana script.

Bernard Shaw is said to have made the remark "ghoti=fish" ("gh" of enough, "o" of women, "ti" of nation). Japanese counterpart of "goti" would be テフテフ or "te`ute`u", butterfly. The invereted apostrophe stands for medial "h", which I called an adhesive separator. Phonetically it represents nothing but it combines "e" and "u". And that the vowel sequence "eu" is to be pronounced as that of "Europe" is not an exception but a rule in Historical Kana. And it palatalizes immediately preceding alveolars. Perhaps "chouchou" of Gendai Kana seemed lucid or more rational as far as phoneticity is concerned, but still this needs some explatanory note as to the pronunciation about the vowel sequence of "ou".

I think it is very important to retain two vowels intact so that they represent so much duration or so many morae. Think of Polynesian look of 麻生太郎 when they were folded into a single vowel. 琉球、once spelled as "riukiu" which only needed an explanatory note about prevocalic "i" is nowadays spelled as "ryukyu". This could be explained as 1) palatization of the prevocalic "i" changes itself to "y", 2) there should be some vowel to sustain the duration in place of the vowel "i", 3) complementation of the vowel by extending the duration expressed by the vowel "u". hence "ryuukyuu". 4) this elongation of "u" is folded into a single "ū". 5) macron-less letter should be used. and now we have "ryukyu".

Take the name of a fuelling vessel "oumi" for instance. If it were spelled as "a`umi", then it would be very clear that it is "au" + "mi", but in the case of "oumi", it would be either "o" + "umi" or "ou" + "mi". Besides this latter "ou" is still ambiguous because it could be "o" and "u". Perhaps we should recognize that reading is a process made with reference to the internal dictionary or word list retainded in his/her brain. It is an easy guess that the hit rate of Historical Kana should be higher.


Anonymous said...

Akutaga`a Ryuunosuke (Akutagawa in conventional romanization) criticized the spelling reform planned by the then Ministry of Education and likened it to Lieutenant Amakasu of the military police who killed O`osugi Sakae.

Reformers of the English spelling never seized the authoritative power of the Ministry. The Shaw alphabet may be the biggest experiment. The Penguin Book of "the Shaw Alphabet Edition of Androcles and the Lion" carries on the back cover:

// the back cover of the Penguin Book

Under the terms of his will Bernard Shaw provided for the design and publication of a new and more efficient alphabet of at least forty letter. This difficult task has at length been completed.

Here is Shaw's alphabet, applied to the text of his play Androcles and the Lion, with a parallel text in the conventional style. Sir James Pitman, K.B.E., M.P., who has been closely associated with the Public Trustee in the efforts to carry out Shaw's wishes, is convinced that the new alphabet is both more legible and one-third more economical in space than traditional printing. Ultimately such advantages would lead to greater speed of both reading and writing.

The keys necessary for deciphering the new alphabet are included in this historic edition. It is for the English-speaking public to decide whether Shaw's alphabet deserves now to supplement, and in time virtually to supplant, the Roman letters which have been in use for many centuries.

// end of the back cover of the Penguin Book

I think Shaw's alphabet could be said to be rational for at least it did not decrease the number of letters. But in Japan, the whole point of reform depends on the decreased number of Kana, and we have no way of differentiating the negative particle "zu" from "dzu". The famous Baseu's (芭蕉) haiku "furuikeya ka`adzu tobikomu midzuno oto" would sound awkward if spelled "ka`azu" (not buying), and "mizu" (not seeing).

Benjamin Franklin had his idea. And I envy the people of the United States that it remained personal. The following is his letter written in his alphabet. He introduced six letters. Here "V" stands for the vowel of "cut", and "E" stands for the open "a" sound. Other letters here replaced by "th", "dh", "sh", "ng" are self-explanatory.

Diir Madam,

Dhi abdshekshVn iu meek to rektifViing aur alfabet, “dhat it uil bi attended uidh inkanviniensiz and difikVltiz,” iz e natural uVn; far it aluaz akVrz huen eni refarmeshVn iz propozed; huedhVr in rilidshVn, gVvernment, laz, and iven daun az lo az rods and huil karidshiz.
Dhi tru kuetshVn dhen, is nat huedhVr dhaer uil bi no difikVltiz ar inkanviniensiz; bVt huedher dhi difikVltiz mE nat bi sVrmaunted; and huedhVr dhi kanviniensiz uil nat, an dhi huol, bi grEtVr dhan dhi inkanviniensiz. In dhis kes, dhi difikVltiz er only in dhi biginning av dhi praktis: huen dhE er uVuns ovVkVm, dhi advantedshez er lasting. To VidhVr iu ar mi, hu spel uel in dhi prezent mod, Vi imadzhin dhi difikVlti av tshendshing dhat mod far dhi nu, iz nat so grEt, bVt dhat ui mVit pVrfektli git ovVr it in a uiks rViting. Az to dhoz hu du nat spel uel, if dhi tu difik\\vltiz er kVmpErd, dhat av titshing dhem tru speling in dhi prvezent mod, and dhat av titzhing dhem dhi nu alfabet and dhi nu speling akarding to it; Vi am kanfident dhat dhi latVr uuld bi bVi far dhi liist. DhE natVrali fal into dhi nu methVd alredi, az mVtsh az dhi imperfekshVn av dher alfabet uil admit av; dhEr prezent bad speling iz onli bad, bikaz kantreri to dhi prezent bad ruls; VndVr dhi nu ruls it uuld bi gud. Dhi difikVlti av lVrning to spel uel in dhi old wE iz so grEt, dhat fiu atEn it; thauzands and thaunzands rViting an to old edsh, uidhaut ever biing ebil to akuVir it. ‘T'iz, bisVid, e difikVlti kantinuali inkriising; az dhi saund graduali veriz mor and mor fram dhi speling: and to farenVs it mEks dhi lVrning to pronauns aur languedsh, az riten in aur buks, almost impassibil.

// my translation into the Historical spelling

Dear Madame,

The objection you make to rectifying our alphabet, ``that it wil be attended with inconveniences and difficulties,'' is a natural one; for it always occurs when any reformation is proposed; whether in religion, government, laws, and even down as low as roads and wheel carriages. The true question then, is not whether there will be no difficulties or inconveniences; but whether the difficulties may not be surmounted; and whether the conveniences will not, on the whole, be greater than the inconveniences. In this case, the difficulties are only in the beginning of the practice; when they are once overcome, the advantages are lasting. To either you or me, who spell well in the present mode, I imagine the difficulty of changing that mode for the new, is not so great, but that I might perfectly get over it in a weeks writing. As to those who do not spell well, if the two difficulties are compared, that of teaching them true spelling in the present mode, and that of teaching them the new alphabet and the new spelling according to it; I am confident that the latter would be by far the least. They naturally fall into the new method already, as much as the imperfection of their alphabet will admit of; their present bad spelling is only bad, because contrary to the present bad rules: under the new rules it would be good. The difficulty of learning to spell well in the old way is so great, that few attain it; thousands and thousands writing on to old age, without ever being able to acquire it. 'T'is, besides, a difficulty continually increasing; as the sound gradually varies more and more from the spelling; and to foreigners it makes the learning to pronounce our language, as written in our books, almost impossible.


Anonymous said...

The following is the comment I posted to Out of Their Right Minds

I think the new spelling system installed after the War is still in the stage of debugging. The Ministry of Education has been incessantly revising and is still revising various tables of characters to be used, (the reversal of which is not to be used) and has been revamping and stil revamping the detailed precepts about what kinds of spelling varieties of a word are permissible, why the traditiona spelling is not to be taught in some cases and permissible in some other cases. Perhaps it was rather those who were pro orthography reform that were out of their right minds. About the rationale of the system, please read the comments to
a Measure of Uncommon Decency


Anonymous said...

A propos de macron:

I do not know how many touches are needed to put in a "ō". In my case, 6 touches. Namely, ampersand, pound mark, three digits of the code in octal and semicolon, without counting those needed for opening the table to read the code. It is a thin straight line, rather heterogeneous in comarison with those thick cursive strokes that compose the letter. Frequent occurrence of macrons may give a clumsy impression and affect legibility. Shaw imposed on his trustee the duty of seeking and publishing a more efficient alphabet of at least fory letters to enable the language to be written without indicating single sounds by groups of letters or by diacritical marks. Diacritical marks were already deemed as something to get rid of. When the typewriter was the state-of-the-art machine, romanization with the hat mark (Ersatz of the macron) posed no problem. But they have become all the more detestable thing in this ASCII-dominated world. No wonder the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prohibited the use of macrons from the passport, though the introduction of "h" of prolongation in what is known as Passport Hepburn only augumented the confusion.

Here is a quotation from Judoforum

// quote begins

To make things even more complicated, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, uses a system of its own, to print the Japanese names of its citizens, since obviously, most border inspectors would not be able to read the name if it were in kanji only. Thus, they use what is called Ministry of Foreign Affairs standard, which is popularly known as “Passport Hepburn". Most unfortunately, instead of Ōkawa or Satō this strange ‘standard’ prints an 'h' in a syllable ending on a long vowel, erroneously (or at least, less preferably) written as Ohkawa or Satoh. In most countries, the logic would makes sense to assume that the way your name is written in your passport, would be the correct one, yet in Japan passports it isn' t.

No matter how strange this might sound, it is not unique. American government agencies misspell the name of most foreigners who have accents in their name. They drop them suggesting that it would not make any difference, which is complete nonsense. A letter with an accent is a different letter. If you write the name ‘François’ as ‘Francois’, then that is something completely different, as you have now written something that is pronounced ‘Frankwa’ instead of ‘Franswa’. Thus, many US-issued identification documents of foreigners are in fact wrong too, which is why so many names of Americans that root in European ancestry make no sense. Americans have often lost their understanding of accents, and when they use them, it makes not sense. Two years ago, I was at a professional meeting, and this woman was wearing a name tag that said "Muller", which is very strange, because the name is properly spelled `Müller'. During a conversation she admitted that her heritage was German and that she knew her name was misspelled, and also that her granddad still spelled it the correct way. I told her I understood the difficulty of having key boards that lack the correct diacritical signs, and that she could simply add an 'e' after the `u' which is also correct. Thus the name `Müller' can also be correctly spelled `Mueller'; both are correct, but 'Muller' is definitely wrong. If you are a soccer fan and watch German soccer, you might sometimes see the name of the famous soccer club "Bayern München" alternatively spelled as "Bayern Muenchen".

However, to add insult to injury though she said that her father wrote it
`Müeller', which is completely nonsensical, and would have most Germans frown. Correct transcription requires knowledge, insight and understanding, alas.

// end of quotation from Cichorei Kano (2 2008, 03:39 AM)

It is an irony that what was envisaged to bring about simpleness has resulted in this complexity of not only the trouble of typing in non-ASCII letters but sometimes the trouble of typing in the whole word or name twice, the second time without diacritical marks to be embedded as a search key with special tags.

It is provided in English Wikipedia: Manual of Style of Japan-related Articles that where macrons are used in the title, appropriate redirects using the macronless spellings should also be created which point to the actual title (e.g., Tessho Genda and Tesshou Genda pointing to Tesshō Genda), and that for proper names, redirects should be created for the Japanese name order which points to the actual title of the article (e.g., Genda Tesshō, Genda Tessho, and Genda Tesshou pointing to Tesshō Genda).


Anonymous said...

Anybody will admit the fundamental drive of the spelling reform is the belief that the language has outgrown the old writing system. And once it is attained, the reformed spelling has become the established system which is again to be reformed.

It is true that the system was adopted after the War, but I think it was conceived right after the Meiji Restoration. Otherwise confounding of voiced affricates and voiced fricatives could not have occured. James Curtis Hepburn used "dz" instead "zu" for both ヅ and ズ sound in the first edition of A Japanese and English Dictionary with an English and Japanese Index.. "J" was used for both ヂ and ジ sound, so it was highly possible that he thought the neutralized sound was affricative. And today with the influx of foreign words, Japanese language has already outgrown the new system in the opposite direction.

The problem of our case is that it was performed and maintained by the government officials with vested interests in the new system. They are very careful not to expose the rationale or irrationality of the system. Every means is taken to deprive pupils of any chance to see the table of the full set of Kana syllabary either in the classroom or in the officially authorized shool textbooks. And today it is less than a third students of a university-level class that could tell IROHA, the Japanese alphabet, the first thing pupils were taught in Edo era, This was confirmed in no other than Tokyo (Toukyau in EHS transliteration of the Classical Kana) University, the most prestigeous one in Japan.

When I switched to the Classical or Historical Kana a few years ago, I found it very confusing to learn two closely related systems. I think the knowledge of Classical Kana, a must for teaching the pre-war literature, is rather an obstacle to get a licence of teacher. In fact, the classical Japanese is not a compulsory subject for a teacher of Japanese language of the Middle (or Junior High) school.

In a sence, the government has been spending big money in the train cource of school teachers not to learn about the orthograpy reform, not to become aware of the problem of romanization. Because of the Procrustean method of romanization, they remain insensitve to the fact that Roman or Latin letters are essentially phonetic symbols. I think this is the endemic cause of inefficacious English language teaching in Japan.

As for eternal revising of the various tables of Chinese characters, you can see the corollay to Parkinson's law "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion," or "Official make work for each other." Please read 「平成十九年國語施策懇談會を聴いて」

As for meticulous precepts about Kana usage, here is a passage from 『言葉に關する問答集』總集編, a book of most frequently asked questions

// quote begins







// end of the quote

And you must always check whether this answer is the latest one. Embarrassing is the fact that the answers in this book are based on the first precept issued in 1946, which was replaced by the second precept of 1986. Reprint was made in the same year of 1986.


Anonymous said...

When Confucius was asked by Tsze-lu, "What will you consider the first thing to be done?", he replied, "What is necessary is to rectify names."

ISO3602, Nihon-shiki in disguise, is said to be transliterational, but it is not, for it admits long vowels which could never be yielded through transliteration of Kana syllabary. I wrote about EHS that it is a tranliteration system of the full set of the Kana syllabary, the first one ever proposed in the talk page to "Romanization of Japanese" in en:Wikipediat

東京都パスポートセンター carries the name of ヘボン式. As far as the table of the Japanese syllabary is concerned, this is the authentic Hepburn system. The note on the syllabic nasal tells us to use "m" immediately before a bilabial. But the note on the so-called long sound betrays it is not Hepburn. It is the Passport method. As for the syllabic nasal, Manual of Style of Japan-related Articles of English Wikipedia reads as follws:The original version of Hepburn used m when syllabic n ん preceded b, m, or p. While generally deprecated, this is still allowed in titles for cases where the official romanization continues to use m (examples: Asahi Shimbun, Namba Station). In the modified Hepburn romanization system, unlike the standard system, the "n" is maintained even when followed by homorganic(sic) consonants (e.g., shinbun, not shimbun). Use Google to check popularity if in doubt, and create a redirect from the n version.

Some years ago, Japanese-English dictionaries used romanized form for Japanese entry words, But today romanized form is no longer used, At the latter days of the old type dictionaries, the system was simplified by discarding n-m distinction of the syllabic nasal. It was in the year of 1954 that the biggest dictionary, New Japanese-English Dictionary third edition published by Kenkyusha (Kenkiusha in EHS transliteration of the classical Kana) followed the suit. Perhaps this caused misunderstanding that the systemp is in use all over Japan.

In the library world, most libraries follow the romanisation system which has been established by ALA/LC (the American Library Association and the Library of Congress), particularly English-speaking countries and it is the modified Hepburn (or Kenkyusha-shiki). This I learned by PC. And Wikipedia is no exception.

Here what is called modified Hepburn is different from the original in that it does not carry any articulatory distinction of the syllabic nasal into notation. I think there is a difference of resolving power between Latin alphabet and Kana syllabary. Hence differentiation of "sh" from "s" or "ch" from "t" etc in Hepburn system. So the abolition of this distinction in the case of the syllabic nasal seems to me contrary to the system, and I prefer 參拜 to be spelled as "sampai".

What makes the matter confusing is that the Hepburn system used in Japanese-English dictionaries was called Modified Hepburn from the first, In this case, the "original" means the method used in the first edition of Hepbunr's Dictionary, and the "modified" means the one first applied in the third edition of 1886.


Anonymous said...

In Kenkyusha's New Japanese-Englsh Dictionary, which I would like to spell Kenkiusha in EHS on the classical Kana and without an apostrophe + "s" because it is not a personal name, carries this in the front matter;

[撥音} すべて "n" で表わし, ヘボン式のように b, m, p の前に m をおかない.

This I confirmed by the 5th edition.

So the editors of the dictionary were aware of the fact that it was a deviation from the Hepburn method, and I think it was a compromise to cater to the market where romanised entry style was losing popularity. It is called "modified Hepburn" in the United States, but "simplified Hepburn" would be better. But it is not so simple when you come to explain the system to the novice. You have to tell him/her to pronounce "n" as "n" in certain contexts and as "m" in certain other cases.

In an Extended Hepburn System or an alternative romanization, both 撥音 (the syllabic nasal) and 促音 (the syllabic stop) are prescribed as homo-organic. Hence "m" and "n" for the syllabic nasal, and various letters according to the immediatley following consonant, and when the syllabic stop is final of the word it is "t". The various letters to be used as the syllabic stop include "t" before "ch", "d" before "j", "k" before "h". I think the Hepburn method of 1886 (the Modified Hepburn in full) had two lacunae for the syllabic stop before "j" and "h".

As for IROHA, the transliteration would be as the following.

色は匂へど 散りぬるを
iro`a ni`o`edo chirinuruwo

我が世誰そ 常ならむ
wagayo tarezo tsunenaramu

有為の奥山 今日越えて
uwino okuyama ke`u koete

浅き夢見じ 酔ひもせず
asakiyumemizhi we`imosezu

The medial "h" of "`" should be pronounced as "h" and the voiced Kana as the unvoice counterpart when read by the syllable.


Anonymous said...

No, I was wrong. The medial "h" should be pronounced as "f" if immediately followed by "u" otherwise as "h" when read by the syllable.

Please do not believe the Government Agencies when they say they are using Hepburn system. Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport uses Hepburn method. Only they believe they are using it and if some one wants to spell his name as "mikiwo" on his passport, he must apply for the use of non-Hepburn method.


Anonymous said...

One of my favorite expressions about the relationship between spelling and pronunciation is the one made by G.L. Brook in his "a History of the English Language". That is "the pronunciation of English is constantly changing and we have reason to be grateful that spelling is not constantly changing along with it." And I beleive Brook told more truth than he meant.

Now here are two texts.

// text A (Japanese)

Idzureno o`ontokinika nyougo kaui amata sabur`itama`ikerunakani ito yamugotonakiki`ani`a aranuga sugurete tokimekitama`u arikeri.

// end of A

// text B (English)

After dyuerse werkes, made, translated, and achieued, hauing noo werke in hande, I sittyng in my studye where as laye many dyuerse maunflettis and bookys, happend that to my hande cam a lytyl booke in Frenshe, whiche late was translated oute of Latyn by some noble clerke of Franunce, whiche booke is named Eneydos, made in Latyn by that noble poete and grete clerke Vyrgyle; whiche booke I sawe ouer and redde therin.... And whan I had aduysed me in this sayd boke. I delybered and concluded to translate it in to Engysshe; and forthwyth toke a penne and ynke, and wrote a leef or tweyne, whiche I ouersawe agayn to correcte it.

// end of B

Don't you get the impression that B is older than A?. The fact is the text A is the opening sentence of Kiritsubo, the first Chapter of the tale of Genzhi (Genji in conventional spelling) and the B is the opening sentences of the Prologue to Caxton's translation of Virgil's Aeneids. So A is twice old as B. The Japanese language is much more stable than English as far as spelling is concerned. If the letter of "v" were introduced for the consonantal use of "u", the legibility of B would be much enhanced. Or if "v" of the consonantal "u" together with "j" of consonantal "i" were got rid of from current English, the legibilily would be much debased. It may be a hindsight, but it is incredible that the orthography reform depending solely on the decreasement of the number of Kana was put into practice. Perhaps, they were so much concerned about decreasment of Characters that they aplied the same principle to Kana without paying due attention to its nature. Otherwise they must have been out of their right minds.

Anyway, because of the demarcation of this continuing language, we Japanese are deprived of any possibility of having an authoritative dictionary covering both pre and post-War Japanese. And you have the Oxfor English Dictionary in spite of the rather changefulness of the language.


Anonymous said...

The rendering of 麻生 should have been "asa`u" or アサフ. I learned this from Dr Bart Mathias (in his notation "asahu").

In EHS (Extended Hepburn System), I used the expression "paternal consonant" or simply paternal to designate the general or representative consonant, an entity to subsume all the consonants of all the Kana syllablary situated in a column. It may be an alveolar stop of the onset common to all the syllables of タ column or a sibilant in the case of サ column, and an aspirate in the case ハ column.

We could assign one and only one letter to each paternal. The method was employed in the system known as Nippon or Nihon method, also known as phonemic notation. Please read "The Universal Adoption of Latin Letters" by Jespersen It was conceived for the benefit of the native speakers of Japanese and could be said to be optimal or most economical in the use of the number of letters. But you cannot intermingle it with a different notation. In other words, you cannot use the method when writing in English.

Today most of the cases of romanized notation are those of proper names used in forein language expression mostly English. It is no wonder that the phonemic notation is seldom employed despite the claim of the advocates of the Nippon method that it is the simplest. It is true that in Nippon method the syllabic nasal is always represented by the letter "n" or the consonant of タ column is universally represented by the letter t". But you must stipulate in what contexts "n" should be pronounced as "n" and in what contexts it should be pronouced as "m" or in what contexts "t" should be pronounced as "t" and in what contexts it should be pronounced as "ch" or "ts". So you see that it has its trade-off, especially for foreigner users of the system.

James Curtis Hepburn opted for the benefit of foreiners and employed Latin alphabet with its English value (potestas or power) as far as consonants are concerned. So you need not bother about the power shifting of the letter. The idea of paternal must have been in the basis of the original Hepburn system. I only gave it an explicit expression.

Kenkyusha method with its simplified treatment of the syllabic nasal is a deviation from Hepburn system, which should be rectified if it be called by the name of Hepburn. And stipulation of homo-organicity of the syllabic stop before "j" and "h" in EHS is a remedy coherent to Hepburn system. And it will make clear that "j" belongs to ダ column rather than to ザ column.


Anonymous said...

In a thread of Antimoon Forum, English: Radical spelling reform or partial modification?, I found the following message posted by a Bardioc.

// Here the quote begins

Performing an orthography reform means to subdivide the people in at least two groups: the ones who stick to the classical spelling and the ones who think they can go on with the new one. Most of the people will be somewhere in between. Conclusion: Every spelling reform destroys the traditional orthography, gives rise to manipulations of various kinds, makes a few people richer then they were before, but enforces the majority to spend time and money for learning something new, where it is not sure if it will survive the next few years.

If there's already a traditional spelling for one language, never touch it, regardless how complicated it might seem. The concequences of a reform will result in much more complication!

In germany, there's very bad experience with a spelling reform.

Here's a link to a resolution on german orthography:

// Here the resolution begins

Dear Colleagues,

the German language has been represented by two orthographies for a couple of years now.

One of them is the orthography which has gradually evolved from Goethe's day and which has been proven throughout the 20th century. It is the orthography Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Ingeborg Bachmann, Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Böll, Elias Canetti, Paul Celan, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Max Frisch, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arthur Schnitzler, Max Weber, and Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote and published in. It is the spelling of the German language in literature, philosophy, and science.

The other orthography has been invented by commission of the state. It is inferior and makes precise linguistic articulation more difficult. Notwithstanding, its implementation is being enforced by decree, against the will of a majority of the population. A large majority of German-speaking intellectuals rejects this prescribed orthography. One of Germany's leading newspapers, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, rejects it. The most renowned publishers, e. g. Diogenes, Hanser, Suhrkamp, Piper, reject it. They all maintain the conventional spelling. At the same time however, children in German, Austrian and Swiss schools are being taught this spelling is `obsolete'.

Unfortunately, some publishers have decided in favour of the `new' spelling. But even in these houses, German authors usually insist on their books being published in the conventional spelling. However, they have no influence on the orthography used in books translated from other languages into German. Whilst German literature is to a large extent being printed in the supposedly `obsolete' spelling, foreign language literature is converted into the `official' orthography by publishers such as S. Fischer or Rowohlt.

We would like to ask you, dear colleagues, to join and support us. We ask you to insist --- as we continue to do ourselves --- on the use of the conventional orthography, from those responsible for publishing your future work in German. Your readers will appreciate your decision.

Yours sincerely,

Horace Engdahl Hans Magnus Enzensberger Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt Günter Grass Lars Gustafsson Elfriede Jelinek György Konrád Reiner Kunze Stanislaw Lem Siegfried Lenz Claudio Magris Harry Mulisch Adolf Muschg Sten Nadolny Cees Nooteboom Patrick Süskind Martin Walser Christa Wolf

October 9, 2003


If you want to have it in another language, visit this link:

// End of quote (the message posted by Bardioc Tue Sep 06, 2005 4:28 pm GMT)

I regret that we could not say that we were subdivided into two groups, for those who sticked to the classical spelling were negligible minority, forced to remain silent because there were no outlet (no publishers, no newspapers) for them. The majority submissively obeyed the proclamaiton of the government not to use certain Kanzhi (漢字) characters and invented replacement words even for technical terms. And 濫獲, the translation equivalent of which is "overfishing" came to be written as 亂獲. Please read 「濫獲」か「亂獲」. I wish the Ministry of Education should learn.

In German speaking countries, even if pupils are taught reformed spelling, they were at least taught about the "obsolete" spelling at the same time. In Japan pupils are not taught that such thing exist. It is written in the new guideline that pupils should be taught classical, legendary or mythological literature. But the manual 文部科學省新學習指導要領小學校學習指導要領解説 has this:

// (transcribed in the classical script)





Anonymous said...

an Extended Hepburn System or an alternative romanization is updated on 15 December, 2008. It covers some meticulous problems which would occur when the method is applied to the classical Kana.