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tlug: Re: tlug-romaji and server names

>Date: Mon, 02 Mar 1998 01:27:23 +0000
From: Matt Gushee <>
>Subject: tlug: Anglicization - Re: Server Name?

>Yes yes yes, absolutely! Actually, though, I think there's a legitimate
>linguistic rationale for this atrocity. To wit, because the Japanese
>themselves don't distinguish between the 's' of 'sa' and the 'sh' of
>'shi', the Tonkatu/sibuya romanization is in a sense truer to the

Well, yes and no.  The argument for the Monbusho system (and Prof. Eleanor
Jorden uses a system almost identical to Monbusho in here Japanese: the
Spoken Language textbook series) is that it is based on the underlying
phoneme rather than the phonetic product after it has been run through the
phonological rule set that turns "tu" into "tsu."  But since both kana
writing systems are syllabaries rather than alphabets, they make no comment
on that.  If the pronunciation of "tsu" in present day Japanese were to
shift to "splork" 1,000 years from now, it would still be written the same
way in kana, whereas a language that was written with an alphabet would
likely change the spelling (although with English, you never know; it's lack
of a standardization body leads to all kinds of interesting gaps between
spelling and pronunciation :-)  ).

There is no perfect romaji system - all have their flaws.  However, if we
consider the original goal of romaji - to provide a means for those who do
not read and write Japanese to render the sounds of Japanese in a written
form - the Hepburn system and it's close derivatives are far more successful
than the Monbusho and Block-Jorden systems.

>Funnily enough, Chinese was subjected to a similarly hideous
>romanization system for many years. China, however, eventually figured
>out that nobody could figure out how to pronounce Mao Tse-tung and
>We can only hope Japan will follow suit in our lifetimes :-/

I'm not going to hold my breath.  The Monbusho came up with that mess
themselves, and whether it's good, bad, or ugly doesn't matter.  All that
matters is that they invented it.  Kind of like their English "education"
program for junior and senior high school students: it's the laughing stock
of the whole world, yet they do nothing to fix it because they invented it

Shifting to server names, I think the names of stations (not just subway
stations, though), rivers, and shinkansen trains are all great ideas.  All
carry the feeling of movement and forward progress.

As far as name length goes, do we have to limit the name length to a fixed
number of characters?  If so, we'll soon find ourselves with a lot of
station names that don't fit, in which case rivers or shinkansen names might
be better, since they're usually shorter.  If there is no limit, though,
train stations should be no problem.


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