Japanese should be romanized.

Simon   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 10:46 GMT
I think it's because WA and WO don't actually fit into a W- series but are parts of other series. So I was thinking about a pattern-based phonetic system that would be neater.
Adam   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 14:56 GMT
Here are some words that Japanese took from English-

erebeta - elevator
nekutai - necktie
bata - butter
beikon - bacon
sarada - salad
remon - lemon
chiizu - cheese
bifuteki - beefsteak
hamu - ham
syanpu setto - shampoo and set
Adam   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 14:57 GMT
That's meant to be "Shyanpu Setto"
Paul   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 17:00 GMT
Inconsistency noted.
According to your Omniglot reference

"The Hepburn system (hebon-shiki) was devised by
James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911), an American missionary from
Philadelphia. who arrived in Japan in 1859 and compiled the first
modern Japanese-English dictionary about a decade later.
The Hepburn system is now the most widely used romanisation system."

The Hepburn system is now the most widely used of the various romanisation systems. But
Sara says the other systems are the basis of the keyboard interface, and are the most commonly used in Japan.

Any other opinions?

Regards, Paul .
Paul   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 17:21 GMT
Hi Sarah

Thanks for your input. It appears that you have more accurate/uptodate information about Japanese Romanji than what resides in the Omniglot Web-page. I hope they fix that.
Thanks also for the information on Kanji. It is nice to think that the Japanese people have effective control over their own writing system, since their culture has split off on its own path away from China.

I realize you have standardization issues, but if as you say, the Chinese themselves are proceeding with some simplification in any case, so the connection of the new ideogram to the original chinese picture concept will no longer be as obvious to anyone but the Chinese scholar.

I think this benefit, great as it might be, is limited to educated Bi-linguals.
I suspect that Higher Education in Japan is departing from the Chinese model.
So the benefits to average educated Japanese student of having a logical, internally consistent stock of words (Verbs, Nouns, Names) with artistic consistency limited to within the actual Kanji Characters might be greater than the loss of some connection to the huge Chinese stock of ideograms.

Any Debate?

Regards, Paul V.

I agree with all this (already said above), though I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a reform.
An ideogram is actually made of a few other ones, originally related to its meaning. Unfortunately, the Japanese characters have been "simplified", that is the components of one character have been replaced with some simpler-looking ones. But these "simpler-looking" components often are not related to the sense that the character originally had. As a result, the ideograms have now become harder to remember.
Sara   Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 18:02 GMT

I have read somewhere that the biggest Kanji dictionary contains around 50 thousand characters. This number also includes the original forms of the actual common characters.
As an example, there are two ways of writing "dragon" (ryuu).

See its original form:

And its new one:

This means Japanese people only have to open a kanji dictionary (well, a huge one, as the average one contains about 10 thousands of characters) to know the origin of one character. I assume it's the same for Chinese people.
Jim   Thursday, February 19, 2004, 00:31 GMT
With all due respect to Sara, she is in fact wrong. It is the Hepburn system which is far more commonly used. Though the others do get a look in.

Often you find that a mixture of systems have been used in the spelling of the one word/name. An example of this is Adam's "Shyanpu Setto" ... Adam is confusing two ways of writing the first syllable in the word. It's either "sha" (in Hepburn) or "sya" (in Nippon and Kunrei) never "shya" (never unless you've confrived you own system).

Keyboards usually accept any of these systems though for certain distinctions that the Hepburn and Kunrei systems fail to make you have to use the Nippon system. You probably wouldn't make much use of the Hepburn system to type on the computer because it's based on pronunciation whereas the other two systems bear a much closer connexion to the kana chart.

Typing on a computer is one thing this is typing in order to produce kana this isn't romanised writing it's only romanised during its trip from the keyboard to the CPU. Japanese actually written in Roman letters is a different story.

On street signs the Hepburn system is used. Many businesses tend to prefer the Hepburn system, though they often end up with some mixture of systems. Bus and tram companies use the Hepburn system. Japan Rail uses the Hepburn system. Local governments use it. Even the passport office uses the Hepburn system. The Hepburn system is taught at schools. Come to Japan and you'll be hard pressed to find much Japanese transliterated with either the Nippon or Kunrei system at all.

Simon, I don't believe that "wa" and "wo" are part of any other series: they're never repersented this way in dictionaries, in charts, on mobile phones, etc.
Lavoisel   Friday, February 20, 2004, 17:51 GMT
The Chinese writing system is a fascinating evolution of a hieroglyphic representation of objects and ideas that has progressively changed into a set of stylised characters the meaning of which has remained the same while their likeness to the objects and ideas they represent has faded out throughout the time.
This site provide a striking illustration of this evolution:
Lavoisel   Friday, February 20, 2004, 17:53 GMT
Smith   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 01:19 GMT
I don't the Japanese language has the ''l'' sound in it because when ever they speak English they alway pronounce the ''l's'' as ''r's'' and they would say a sentence like this, this certain way.

I lit a firelog and reset the blinking clock, turned on the light, and looked out the window at the daylight outside.

They would say it like this.

I rit a firerog and reset the brinking crock, turned on the right, and rooked out the window at the dayright outside.
Shogo   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 04:20 GMT
It's hard to say for sure whether we have the L sound in Japanese, I guess. Our r sound(or at least the sound which is spelt with an r when romanized) can be very similar to the english L when its at the beginning of a word(it might depend on which part of japan the person is from, though)
Because our R sound is pronounced somewhere in between the L and the R, we tend to say the easier one to say according to its position. Often you can hear people say some sound that can sound like both an L and an R.

I think one of the problems that occurs when Japanese is completely romanized is that there will be some extremely common words which will not be shown phonetically when it's spelt in either Hepburn, Nippon or Kunrei romanization system. For example, the word "masu" is pronounced like "mas" by the majority of native speakers. So is the word "desu" which is pronounced like "des". However for some reason when we sing or try to speak clearly, most of us pronounced them with two syllables.
Smith   Saturday, February 21, 2004, 04:26 GMT
I just know this can get confusing to an English speaker that hears an English speaking Japanese speaker say ''He turned on the light'' coming out as ''he turned on the right''. It would sound like he was in a car.
Jim   Monday, February 23, 2004, 01:40 GMT
No, ''He turned on the right.'' sounds more like he's in politics than in a car.

As mentioned above, the sound romanised as "r" is completely different to any English sound. Though it is similar to [r] and [l] it really is neither. It's sort of in between but sort of not, in fact it's also bit like [d].

The Japanese word for "pudding" is "purin". The sense in that: there is no "di" in Japanese. Well, there is if you're using Nippon romanisation but in Hepburn it's "ji".

So, true enough, they have trouble with the distinction between [l] and [r] in English but to say that whenever they pronounce a word with a [l] in it it comes out as [r] would not be telling the whole truth. When they try pronouncing either it comes out as something sort of in between ... unless they're good at English.
Shogo   Monday, February 23, 2004, 02:10 GMT
Speaking or [d] and [r] in Japanese, I guess it's true that the English [d] can be like a Japanese [r] at times... at least to an English ear. There's actually a clear distinction between the Japanese [d] and [r], where the [d] is a popping sound and the [r] is rather a flapping sound made on the back of the front teeth, but many people who speak Japanese as a second language tend to say both of them the same... which is like [r] and [l] to us.

I think there's a "di" sound in Japanese... although it's usually used for foreign words and mainly written in katakana. It's written with the character for "de" and the small "i". For example the Japanese for "disc" is "disuku", and all most everyone can pronounce "di" as the English "di". I think the word "purin" is just an exception... where the English "di" sound is written as "ri" in Japanese. Though as I mentioned before, I agree with you on that our [r] can be very similar to the English [d]. I think Spanish has more or less the same sound... to my ear Spanish r sound (not the rr sound or the ones in the beginning of a word where it's trilled) is almost the same as our r sound.
Smith   Monday, February 23, 2004, 20:52 GMT
It sound like [r] to me and it's more of an ''r'' than an ''l''. It seems like the Japanese language has no [l] sound. They would say this sentence, I went by the large lake late last afternoon and then I slept like a log in a log cabin.

''I went by the rarge rake rate rast afternoon and then I srept rike a rog in a rog cabin.