hepburn system

Hepburn romanization

The is named after James Curtis Hepburn, who used it to transcribe the sounds of the Japanese language into the Latin alphabet in the third edition of his Japanese–English dictionary, published in 1887. The system was originally proposed by the Society for the Romanization of the Japanese Alphabet (羅馬字会 Rōmajikai) in 1885. The Hepburn system was subsequently revised and called Shūsei Hebon-shiki Rōmaji (). This revised version was referred to as Hyōjun-shiki Rōmaji (standard style) before.

The original and revised variants of Hepburn remain the most widely used methods of transcription of Japanese. As Hepburn is based on English phonology, an English speaker unfamiliar with Japanese will generally pronounce a word romanized in Hepburn more accurately than a word romanized in the competing Kunrei-shiki Rōmaji (Cabinet-ordered system). Likewise, native Japanese speakers familiar with the Roman alphabet through the study of English tend to find Hepburn more comfortable for English context than Kunrei.

Legal status

Hepburn is based on English phonology, not Japanese, and as such has faced some opposition in Japan. In particular, a September 21, 1937 cabinet ordinance proclaimed an alternative system now commonly known as Kunrei to be Japan's official romanization for all purposes, but this was overturned by the Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP) during the Occupation of Japan. The (slightly revised) ordinance was reissued in 1954.

In 1972, a revised version of Hepburn was codified as ANSI standard Z39.11-1972. It was proposed in 1989 as a draft for ISO 3602, but rejected in favor of Kunrei. The Z39.11-1972 standard was consequently deprecated on October 6, 1994.

Although Hepburn is not a government standard, some government agencies mandate it. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires the use of Hepburn on passports, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport requires the use of Hepburn on transport signs, including road signs and railway station signs.

In many other areas where it lacks de jure status, Hepburn remains the de facto standard. Signs and notices in city offices and police stations, at shrines, temples and attractions also use it. English-language newspapers and media use the simplified form of Hepburn. Cities and prefectures use it in information for English-speaking residents and visitors, and English-language publications by the Japanese Foreign Ministry use simplified Hepburn too. Official tourism information put out by the government uses it, as do guidebooks, local and foreign, on Japan.

Many students of Japanese as a foreign language learn Hepburn.

Variants of Hepburn romanization

There are three standard variants of Hepburn romanization.

  • The first is traditional Hepburn, which renders long vowels and syllabic n in a variety of ways. This corresponds to the third edition (1886) of Hepburn's dictionary, although changes in kana usage must be accounted for.
  • The second is revised Hepburn, a revised version of traditional Hepburn, in which the rendering of syllabic n as m before certain consonants is no longer used. This is used by the Library of Congress. (Revised Hepburn may be referred to as modified Hepburn.)
  • The third is modified Hepburn, which builds on revised Hepburn to further modify traditional Hepburn. This version is consistent in its treatment of long vowels (always doubling the vowel) and syllabic n (always n-bar). It has been adopted by some major dictionaries (e.g. the Pocket Kenkyusha Japanese Dictionary published by Oxford University Press), but is still mainly the preserve of linguists. (The term modified Hepburn may also be used to refer to revised Hepburn.)

In Japan itself, there are three variants officially mandated for various uses:

  • Railway Standard , in which the rendering of syllabic n as m before b, m, p is used. All JR railways and other major railways use this type for station names.
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs standard , which explicitly allows the use of in personal names, notably for passports. In particular, rendering the syllabic n as m before b, m, p, and romanizing long o as any of oh, oo or ou (e.g. any of Satoh, Satoo or Satou for 佐藤) is permitted.
  • Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport standard in which the rendering of syllabic n as m before certain consonants is not used. This is used for road signs.

Details of these variants can be found below.

Obsolete variants

The romanizations set out in the first and second versions of Hepburn's dictionary are primarily of historical interest. Notable differences from the third and later versions include:

Second version

  • エ, ヱ are written as ye (e.g. Yedo)
  • ズ is written as dzu (e.g. kudzu)
  • キャ,キョ,キュ are written as kiya, kiyo and kiu
  • クワ,クワイ are written as kwa, kwai (e.g. Kwannon)

First version

The following differences are in addition to those in the second version:

  • ス is written as sz
  • ツ is written as tsz
  • ズ,ヅ is written as dz
  • クワ,クワイ are written as kuwa, kuwai

Features of Hepburn romanization

The main feature of Hepburn is that its spelling is based on English phonology. More technically, where syllables constructed systematically according to the Japanese syllabary contain the "unstable" consonant for the modern spoken language, the orthography is changed to something that, as an English speaker would pronounce it, better matches the real sound, for example し is written shi not * si.

Some linguists object to Hepburn, as the pronunciation-based spellings can obscure the systematic origins of Japanese phonetic structures, inflections, and conjugations. Supporters argue that Hepburn is not intended as a linguistic tool.

Particles

  • When he へ is used as a particle it is written e.
  • When ha は is used as a particle it is written wa.
  • When wo を is used as a particle it is written o.

Long vowels

In traditional and revised Hepburn:

  • The long vowels o and u are indicated by a macron—e.g., long o is written ō.
  • In words of Japanese or Chinese origin, the long vowel e is written ei.
  • In words of Japanese or Chinese origin, the long vowel i is written ii.
  • In words of foreign origin, all long vowels are indicated by macrons.

In modified Hepburn:

  • All long vowels are indicated by doubling the vowel, e.g. long o is written oo.
    • The combination ei is reserved for cases where the two vowels are pronounced as distinct sounds, e.g. in the word Supein (スペイン), meaning "Spain".

Syllabic n

In traditional Hepburn:

  • Syllabic n (ん) is written as n before consonants, but as n' (with an apostrophe) before vowels and y. It is written as m before other labial consonants, i.e. b, m, and p.

Examples: annai 案内, kin'en 禁煙, gumma 群馬

In revised Hepburn:

  • The rendering m before labial consonants is not used, being replaced with n. It is still written n' (with an apostrophe) before vowels and y.

Examples: annai 案内, kin'en 禁煙, gunma 群馬

In modified Hepburn:

  • Syllabic n is always written as n with a macron (), such as is used to indicate long vowels in traditional Hepburn. (This can be achieved on word processors through the use of various specialized fonts, e.g. Times Gandhari.) This renders the use of apostrophes unnecessary.

Examples: an̄nai 案内, kin̄en 禁煙, gun̄ma 群馬

Double consonants

  • Double (or "geminate") consonants are marked by doubling the consonant following the sokuon, っ, except for shssh, chtch, tstts.

Variations

Variations of the Hepburn system indicate the long vowels ō and ū as follows:

  • Tōkyō: indicated with macrons. This follows the rules of the traditional and revised Hepburn systems, and is considered to be standard.
  • Tokyo: not indicated at all. This is common for Japanese words that have been adopted into English. This is also the convention used in the de facto Hepburn used in signs and other English-language information around Japan, mentioned in the paragraph on legal status.
  • Tôkyô: indicated with circumflexes. Circumflexes are how long vowels are indicated by the alternative Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki romanizations. Circumflexes are often used when a word processor does not allow macrons. With the spread of Unicode, this is becoming rare.
  • Tohkyoh: indicated with an "h". This is sometimes known as "passport Hepburn", as the Japanese Foreign Ministry has authorized (but not required) this usage in passports.
  • Toukyou: written using kana spelling: ō as ou or oo (depending on the kana) and ū as uu. This is sometimes called wāpuro style, as this is how text is entered into a Japanese word processor (do purosessā) using a keyboard with Roman characters. This method most accurately represents the way that vowels are written in kana, differentiating between おう (as in とうきょう written Toukyou in this system) and おお (as in とおい written tooi in this system).
  • Tookyoo: written by doubling the long vowels. This follows the rules of the modified Hepburn system, but is also common when writing words of foreign origin without reference to any particular system, i.e. paatii for パーティー ("party") instead of pātī. This is also used in the JSL form of romanization.

Hepburn romanization charts

For hiragana

a i u e o (ya) (yu) (yo)

ka ki ku ke ko きゃ kya きゅ kyu きょ kyo

sa shi su se so しゃ sha しゅ shu しょ sho

ta chi tsu te to ちゃ cha ちゅ chu ちょ cho

na ni nu ne no にゃ nya にゅ nyu にょ nyo

ha hi fu he ho ひゃ hya ひゅ hyu ひょ hyo

ma mi mu me mo みゃ mya みゅ myu みょ myo

ya yu yo

ra ri ru re ro りゃ rya りゅ ryu りょ ryo

わ wa ゐ wi ゑ we を wo

n

ga gi gu ge go ぎゃ gya ぎゅ gyu ぎょ gyo

za ji zu ze zo じゃ ja じゅ ju じょ jo

da (ji) (zu) de do ぢゃ (ja) ぢゅ (ju) ぢょ (jo)

ba bi bu be bo びゃ bya びゅ byu びょ byo

pa pi pu pe po ぴゃ pya ぴゅ pyu ぴょ pyo

For standard katakana

ア a イ i ウ u エ e オ o (ya) (yu) (yo)

カ ka キ ki ク ku ケ ke コ ko キャ kya キュ kyu キョ kyo

サ sa シ shi ス su セ se ソ so シャ sha シュ shu ショ sho

タ ta チ chi ツ tsu テ te ト to チャ cha チュ chu チョ cho

ナ na ニ ni ヌ nu ネ ne ノ no ニャ nya ニュ nyu ニョ nyo

ハ ha ヒ hi フ fu ヘ he ホ ho ヒャ hya ヒュ hyu ヒョ hyo

マ ma ミ mi ム mu メ me モ mo ミャ mya ミュ myu ミョ myo

ヤ ya ユ yu ヨ yo

ラ ra リ ri ル ru レ re ロ ro リャ rya リュ ryu リョ ryo

ワ wa ヰ wi ヱ we ヲ wo

ン n

ガ ga ギ gi グ gu ゲ ge ゴ go ギャ gya ギュ gyu ギョ gyo

ザ za ジ ji ズ zu ゼ ze ゾ zo ジャ ja ジュ ju ジョ jo

ダ da ヂ (ji) ヅ (zu) デ de ド do ヂャ (ja) ヂュ (ju) ヂョ (jo)

バ ba ビ bi ブ bu ベ be ボ bo ビャ bya ビュ byu ビョ byo

パ pa ピ pi プ pu ペ pe ポ po ピャ pya ピュ pyu ピョ pyo

For extended katakana

These are used mainly to represent the sounds in words in other languages. Most of these are not formally standardized.
イェ ye
ウィ wi ウェ we ウォ wo
ヷ va ヸ vi ヹ veヺ vo
ヴァ va ヴィ vi ヴ vu ヴェ ve ヴォ vo
シェ she
ジェ je
チェ che
ティ ti トゥ tu
テュ tyu
ディ di ドゥ du
デュ dyu
ツァ tsa ツェ tse ツォ tso
ファ fa フィ fi フェ fe フォ fo
フュ fyu

  • † — The characters in red are obsolete in modern Japanese.
  • ‡ — The character wo should be written o phonetically when it is used as a particle in modern Japanese, and is only occasionally rendered as wo for some borrowed words (such as non-standard ヲッカ wokka for "vodka").
  • Parentheses — The characters in parentheses are used only when rendaku occurs on ち chi or つ tsu.

References

External links

Search another word or see hepburn systemon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature