Tempura vs. Tenpura; Shimbashi vs. Shinbashi

Curious about Language

Senior Member
Australia, English
Hello,
I was wondering why, when rendered into romaji, 天ぷら becomes tempura, and 新橋 becomes Shimbashi. "M" does not appear in the romaji translations of kana, so why does it appear on these examples?

If anyone has any information or ideas, I would be most interested!
 
  • lammn

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Cantonese
    Good question!
    but I have no idea why it is so...
    I just want to add to the list that why "senpai" is also written as "sempai".

    *Wait for someone else to answer*
     

    Wobby

    Senior Member
    English [England]
    I think I recall that there was a rule about the 'moraic n' (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Japanese) that made it change its pronunciation depending on what followed it. In the three examples that you have given, the 'n' is either followed by a 'p' or a 'b', and this changes its pronunciation to that of an 'm', so sometimes it is written this way to reflect that... at least, I think it is. :)
     

    lammn

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Cantonese
    Oh, I didn't realize that the consonant "n" is pronounced as "m" in such cases.

    Thanks for the info, Wobby!
     

    Demurral

    Senior Member
    BCN
    Catalan, Spanish
    Hello,
    I was wondering why, when rendered into romaji, 天ぷら it becomes tempura.
    Just a marginal (?) note: rOOmaji is "Roman letters" but there are different romanization methods. It is either Hepburn-shiki (hebon-shiki, Hepburn style), that is phonetic, and writes tempura; or kunrei-shiki (cabinet ordered writing system), that is phonemic, and writes tenpura. (Sorry, Aoyama, I was wrong, and tricked your mind!!)

    In the three examples that you have given, the 'n' is either followed by a 'p' or a 'b', and this changes its pronunciation to that of an 'm', so sometimes it is written this way to reflect that... at least, I think it is. :)

    I agree. The speaker always is pre-thinking the following sound to pronounce, so his mouth and his tongue are always pronouncing "pre-positioning". In order to pronounce the bilabial voiced()/ unvoiced([p]) sound, the preceeding nasal alveolar sound([n]) becomes a nasal bilabial([m]). It is called assimilation.^^

    Hope it helps!
     
    Last edited:

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Recurring question.
    In the three examples that you have given, the 'n' is either followed by a 'p' or a 'b', and this changes its pronunciation to that of an 'm', so sometimes it is written this way to reflect that
    In order to pronounce the bilabial voiced()/ unvoiced([p]) sound, the preceeding nasal alveolar sound([n]) becomes a nasal bilabial([m]). It's called assimilation

    Exactly.
    Literal "Hepburn transcription" should be tenpura etc, but phonetic transcription, according to the rule that p/b preceded by a nasalized vowel should be written with an m results in :
    tempura, shimbun, gambate, kempeitei etc.
     

    Curious about Language

    Senior Member
    Australia, English
    Oh, I see. So, these should actually be written with an "n", but phonetically it sounds more like an "m", so it has been written this way. That makes sense. Thanks!
     

    Flaminius

    hedomodo
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Hi Curious,

    So, these should actually be written with an "n"
    It depends on which transcription system you follow and how strictly you want to follow. If you choose the Hepburn transcription, then ん (syllabic N) must be written <m> before <p>, <b>, <m>. In Kunrei-shiki, it is invariably written <n>.

    In actual usage, however, confusion of the two systems is rampant. No-one really writes <ti> and <si> for ち (/chi/) and し (/shi/), which are norms in Kunrei-shiki (therefore <Sinbasi> looks very weird). On the other hand, people often write <n> before <p>, <b>, <m> even though their transcriptions are otherwise Hepburn.
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    No-one really writes <ti> and <si> for ち (/chi/) and し (/shi/), which are norms in Kunrei-shiki (therefore <Sinbasi> looks very weird).
    Well, it may look weird but it can be found quite often, especially on trucks, small shops, calling cards (where the romaji part is left at the bon vouloir of the printer ...), train stations posters .
     

    biiru

    New Member
    Italian
    Well, it may look weird but it can be found quite often, especially on trucks, small shops, calling cards (where the romaji part is left at the bon vouloir of the printer ...), train stations posters .
    It definitely look weird.
    Kunrei is now (the last 20 years or so) the widely and less misleading way to transcript japanese.
    In schools that teach Japanese today, is probably the only trascription method used.
    Hepburn is quite out-of-fashion anyway... :D
    Better leave it behind for good, trying not to pay attention to who is still trying to use it ^^
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Welcome to the Forum biiru !

    Let me differ on this ...
    Kunrei is now (the last 20 years or so) the widely and less misleading way to transcript japanese.
    In schools that teach Japanese today, is probably the only trascription method used.
    Hepburn is quite out-of-fashion anyway...
    I dare think it is pretty much the opposite , Hepburn transcription is (rightly) still recognized as the best and most truthworthy transcription available, even if it dates quite a bit (but that does not change neither its value,nor its pertinence).
     

    biiru

    New Member
    Italian
    Thanks for your welcome Aoyama ^^

    I've been studying japanese an japanese culture for the last 15 years, been in Tokyo as apparently you are, and have been studying and working there.
    If you read, or study, on "modern" books, or if you look to the last 20-25 years pubblications about Japanese language and Japanese culture, You'll maybe agree with me that Hepburn is no more that widely used.
    Scholars and teachers don't use it no more, and "sukoshi zutsu" Hepburn is going to desappear.
    We can anyway agree, I think, that Kunrei is much less misleading.
    =)
     

    Flaminius

    hedomodo
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Welcome, ビールさん。 :D

    You are getting the Hepburn and kunrei the other way around. If you agree with me that <Sinbasi> looks very weird, then you are saying that kunrei is weird.

    What you yourself wrote above "sukoshi zutsu", is in keeping with the Hepburn conventions.
     

    Kuchan

    New Member
    English - Caribbean
    Biiru, Flaminus and Aoyama,

    I think the value of the systems depends on where you are standing. The Kunrei, being completely phonetic means easier and more systematic transcription in and out of Japanese. Hepburn means easier pronunciation outside of Japanese. I'm from way up in the boondocks so I have no idea what is the Japan norm, but the education system in elementary schools here teaches and tests Kunrei. When I worked in elementary schools, I taught the kids that if they were writing for a non-Japanese they should use phonetic wirting. Otherwise, Chinatsu will be called Tinatu.
     

    Kuchan

    New Member
    English - Caribbean
    By the way, Curious, the same thing happens in English. We say impossible, immobile and imbalance because of the labial bilateral.
     
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