(In)accuracy of Katakana Transcriptions

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cheshire

Senior Member
Japanese
Aoyama, You've got to demand that Japanese press stop calling キャメロン・ディアス and ヤンキース and write instead キャメロン・ディアズ and ヤンキーズ, because they are outright mistakes and should be avoided.
 
  • jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    But again Díaz is a Spanish surname (I think her father is Cuban) and Spanish s's are always voiced, so you'd have キャメロン・ディアス. Now, should katakana (try to) imitate the way the American pronunciation or the original Spanish one. That's the question.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    See? It's indeed little use trying to mimic the "original" sound. The more we try to do so, the more gairaigo look awful!

    ジャズィーク for jazyk,
    レオナードゥ・ディキャプリオゥ Leonardo DeCaprio
    パヒ Paris
    マスクヴァ Moscow
    ピチルブルク St Petersburg
    ハムブァーク Hamburg
    メヒコ Mexico
    ヒオデジャネイロ Rio DeJaneiro


    As you see, it's terribly awful if we try to mimic the original sound. You should consider orthographical merits, as well as just phonological aspects.

    ...Cameron Diaz is an American actress, so it should have been キャメロン・ディアズ if you stick with Aoyama's stance. No one in the press business will!
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    That is here, sorry, a pointless debate. A transcription should be based on an actual pronounciation (of any kind) or of a close rendering of that pronounciation. If Americans pronounce ディアス for Dias the English way, then let it be. But ファムズ for femmes is a wrong pronounciation that nobody uses.
    For the rest
    ジャズィーク for jazyk,
    レオナードゥ・ディキャプリオゥ Leonardo DeCaprio
    パヒ Paris
    マスクヴァ Moscow
    ピチルブルク St Petersburg
    ハムブァーク Hamburg
    メヒコ Mexico
    ヒオデジャネイロ Rio DeJaneiro
    there are conventions and references in pronounciation transcriptions :
    Moscow is English, Moskwa Russian, Mexico (Mejico) is Spanish etc .The rule in Japanese is not always clear, mostly it respects the original language (Pari(s), not Parisu), sometimes it's the English version ... R transcribed as ヒ may have been found in Meiji era books ...
     

    frecklegirl

    New Member
    U.S., English
    What I do in these kinds of dilemmas is look up the English Wikipedia page on a person, then see if there is a corresponding Japanese page. I then get the katakana from that page. If there is no Japanese page, then I break up the phrase and see if each word has a Japanese page (for example, there is probably already an accepted way to katakana-ize a name like "Andrew"). If that fails, then I do what you're doing and try to come up with appropriate katakana.

    I've found that many loanwords try to mimic the pronunciation of the original language, not the English pronunciation--for the most part, I know there are exceptions. This always surprised me, I don't know why. But of course the Japanese want to mimic French, etc pronunciations and not English ones (Pari vs. Parisu, etc).
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Though it's not important for this discussion Moscow is written as モスクワ, not マスクヴァ in correct Japanese. Yes, it follows the Russian spelling and pronunciation - Москва (Moskva).
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    The y in Jazyk is not long, so there's no ー, but except for that, I like your suggestion as well.
    Sometimes long vowels serve as an indication of the stress, which is incorrect if we talk about the Czech word, this word is stressed on the first syllable in Czech.

    BTW, the Russian word yazyk (язык) means the same as in Czech - language/tongue. The 2nd syllable is stressed, though and ы is much deeper in pronunciation.
     

    jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    Sometimes long vowels serve as an indication of the stress, which is incorrect if we talk about the Czech word, this word is stressed on the first syllable in Czech.
    Exactly, but don't forget that Czech distinguishes long from short vowels. ジャズィーク would be closer to jazýk, if such a word existed. Anyway, I think we're straying off-topic and Flaminius will have a lot of slashing to do.
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    It's fine you want to try to be loyal to the original sound, but you may want to remember that not all of those who import a word and make it a gairaigo are language experts.

    If you see "Москва," most of us may think that its pronunciation is "モスクヴァ," but it's wrong and should be "マスクヴァ," as "o" is not stressed. They most likely make that kind of mistake, as they tend to apply English or Japanese rules to a language they learn. You can't blame them for not being loyal to the original sounds of words they imported.

    Even though English education has been successful in recent years, you can't expect all of those who import words to have perfect knowledge of English pronunciation. It's impossible to let all of them to remember that voiceless "s" as a marker of plurarity of a noun is possible only if it follows a voiceless consonant.

    You may find it respectful to be loyal to the orignal sounds of foreign words, it is not more than one parameter you should consider in introducing gairaigo. There are more important aspects to think about: how they look, how they are easy to identify in written forms.

    If you go extreme and all gairaigo should be transcribed perfectly into Japanese, you should have invented additional letters enabling us to make it happen. マスクヴァ is not proper still; it should be マskヴァ. We haven't, as yet, and never will we.

    I believe Japanese people are known to be respectful to other cultures, but I don't think that reputation can be achieved by being loyal to the original sounds of gairaigo. It would be really unfruitful. Sound is not the only thing you should value; you shouldn't disregard orthographical beauty. Each language has its own beauty, and that is what we should primarily think about.
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    It's still interesting if there will be more reforms to cater for some missing sounds or sound combinations, as script reforms do happen, including Japanese. I personally, don't think that some mismatch in pronunciation is any disrespect.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Moderator Comment:

    This thread has been branched from here.

    To rephrase cheshire's initial comment in more general terms, please keep your comments within these parameters:

    What is your opinion on how accurate katakana transcriptions should be; what confusions, implications, miss-communications inaccurate transcriptions bring about (inaccurate = influenced by Japanese phonology)?
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    In that respect (Flaminius comment above), I dare think that transcribing Jazyk as ジャズィーク is strange and probably a needless subtility.
    It would imply that the reader of that japanese transcription had a knowledge of Czech language pronounciation ... Possible but not the point here. A transcription should have as its goal to unable an average speaker to pronounce a foreign word, as faithfully as possible, within the accepted natural phonetic rendition of his own language. "ズィ" for something close to Ji is understandable but unnatural , as well as an unwanted difficulty.
     

    I_like_my_TV

    Senior Member
    Tongan
    Very interesting discussion but I don't think it'd result in better, more accurate transcriptions. Why? Because in using a foreign name which is new to us, we normally don't transcribe it based on the best of our linguistic understanding; but utilise one that is already established, previously transcribed by someone who very likely doesn't share much of our linguistic enlightenment.

    Take the name "Cameron Diaz", for example, who would likely to be the first person who needed to use this name in Japanese? No, not the best linguist of Japan but it's very likely to be someone in the Japanese entertainment industry/ media. The next person who used the name would likely be also from the same circle, and so on until the name is already established, too late to change...

    Ok, would anyone like to vote me to be the first President of Japan's Academy of Accurate Katakana Transcription (A professional body established to oversee that all transcriptions used in Japanese are accurate) ? ;)
     
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