Transliteration of long vowels in Hepburn (example: Tōkyō)?

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s57morbidangel

New Member
British English
Konnichiwa. Chotto yoroshii desu ka.

“Tōkyō” is arguably the best way to transliterate 東京. But what if you would not use the o with macron for whatever reason (for example, because it’s not always possible to use it on every computer program)? Would it be better to write it like “Tookyoo” or “Toukyou” or “Tohkyoh”? And why? I’ve read on the Japanese Wikipedia page of the city that とうきょう is the hiragana version of the name, but does that mean that “Toukyou” is a better way to write it than “Tookyoo”or “Tohkyoh”?

“Ōsaka” is arguably the best way to transliterate 大阪. But what if you would not use the o with macron for whatever reason (for example, because it’s not always possible to use it on every computer program)? Would it be better to write it like “Oosaka”or “Ousaka” or “Ohsaka”? And why? I’ve read on the Japanese Wikipedia of the city that おおさか is the hiragana version of the name, but does that mean that “Oosaka” is a better way to write it than “Ousaka” or “Ohsaka”?

I tried my best to explain as clearly as possibly what my questions are. And I hope you understand my questions. I would like to mention that I have some basic understanding of hiragana and katakana, but I basically don’t understand anything about kanji. I hope the questions were not too strange and hope someone could try to help me out. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
 
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  • Starfrown

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Some people prefer to use a system of strict transliteration--that is, one in which one Roman character is assigned to one Japanese character. Generally in such systems, "o" is always used to represent お and "u" is always used to represent う. The advantage of this is that the reader who knows Japanese will always be able to write the romanized word in Kana correctly.

    Other systems are instead focused merely on transcription--representing the sounds of Japanese accurately in Roman characters. In these, "oh" or "ō" may stand for either おお or おう, which are of course pronounced the same in Japanese.

    I am personally against using the combination "oo" to represent おう, because it may give the reader the impression that you are using a system of transliteration when in fact you are using one of transcription. Note that I have only ever seen this representation of おう used in older texts.

    In short, which is better will depend entirely on what information you wish to convey to the reader.
     

    Wishfull

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Konnichiwa. Chotto yoroshii desu ka.

    “Tōkyō” is arguably the best way to transliterate 東京. But what if you would not use the o with macron for whatever reason (for example, because it’s not always possible to use it on every computer program)? Would it be better to write it like “Tookyoo” or “Toukyou” or “Tohkyoh”? And why? I’ve read on the Japanese Wikipedia page of the city that とうきょう is the hiragana version of the name, but does that mean that “Toukyou” is a better way to write it than “Tookyoo”or “Tohkyoh”?

    “Ōsaka” is arguably the best way to transliterate 大阪. But what if you would not use the o with macron for whatever reason (for example, because it’s not always possible to use it on every computer program)? Would it be better to write it like “Oosaka”or “Ousaka” or “Ohsaka”? And why? I’ve read on the Japanese Wikipedia of the city that おおさか is the hiragana version of the name, but does that mean that “Oosaka” is a better way to write it than “Ousaka” or “Ohsaka”?

    I tried my best to explain as clearly as possibly what my questions are. And I hope you understand my questions. I would like to mention that I have some basic understanding of hiragana and katakana, but I basically don’t understand anything about kanji. I hope the questions were not too strange and hope someone could try to help me out. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
    Hi.
    I understand your questions very well. And your Japanese sentences are correct.
    I myself have the same question just like you.
    I can't write the macron with my computer.
    I myself write "Tookyoo" or "Toukyou" reluctantly. I don't know the correct rule. So I too would like to know the correct answer.


    Actually, the most popular choice I saw other people write might be "Tokyo". No macron at all.
    In this method the pronounciation is vague and it depends on the reader.
    This method doesn't distinguish long vowels from short vowels.
    But I believe that this writing method ignoring macron (not oo nor ou nor oh) is the standard and official method.

    When I want to convey the true pronounciation(edit;pronunciation) of Japanese to learners, for example in this forum, I try to use "oo" or "ou".
     
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    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    I can't write the macron with my computer.
    I myself write "Tookyoo" or "Toukyou" reluctantly.
    If you are at liberty to install a new browser to your computer, I suggest Firefox so you can start using a handy add-on on the browser (abcTajpu: I suggested it somewhere in the JP resources section). I rely on it for all my macrons and circumflexes and ogoneks and haceks and acutes:
    a + - + F2 = ā
    i + ^ + F2 = î
    e + , + F2 = ę
    s + < + F2 = š
    s + ' + F2 = ś

    When I want to convey the true pronunciation of Japanese to learners, for example in this forum, I try to use "oo" or "ou".
    The former was my choice years ago when I had to write romanised Japanese on a very old computer. I still do so if I cannot use macron. I avoid "ou" and "oh" because they suggest a closing diphthong [oʊ] (goat in US pronunciation) whereas the Japanese long vowel is either purely long [oː] or an opening diphthong [oɔ].

    I use romanisation primarily for indicating the pronunciation; thus it is transcription. It is not for retrieving the spelling in the Japanese scripts. If I have to indicate how a word is written in the Japanese orthography, ie, to transliterate, I mark the transliteration by angle brackets in keeping with the convention (<Oosaka> and <Toukyou>).

    Like I have mentioned a few times in the forum, there is no one definitive official method of romanising Japanese. 訓令式 is taught assiduously during compulsory education but it has very few reluctant followers outside classroom. In fact, many government ministries adopt more transcriptional methods. Then again, there are not one but two or three different transcription methods. :O

    I don't think all participants to the forum can agree on the same method for romanising Japanese. If you adopt transliteration, that's fine as long as the readers do not mistake it for actual pronunciation. Do you have creative ideas? Go for it but explain your symbols. Any method is okay as long as it is clear.

    All I want to propose is to be consistent in our methods. I have come across a few methods that might confuse readers who are unfamiliar with the Japanese phonology:
    <Shinbasi> for 新橋: If you use <shi> for し, readers understand <si> is for another pronunciation; /si/.
    <ninja> for 忍者 and <jyogen> for 助言: You can write <ninja> and <jogen> or <ninzya> and <zyogen> but you'd better avoid using two different methods (<j> and <jy>) for representing one pronunciation.
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    I have to decide on how to transliterate when I send SMS in Japanese but I only have Roman letters at the moment, macrons are missing as well (ā ē ī ō ū). I prefer to use the original spelling - Toukyou, ookii, if I can't use macrons (Tōkyō, ōkii).

    I hesitate when I write particles は, へ and を - wa/ha, e/he, o/wo. Both methods are used.

    BTW, using English spelling with macrons is also a standard way (variant) to write Tōkyō or Ōsaka.
     
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