East Asian Writing Systems

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Transliteration of CJV

This is a brief explanation of the way CJV languages have been transliterated in the cjvlang site. For information on the Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese writing systems, see CJV Writing Systems (this site). For information on the pronunciation of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese, try the following links:

Chinese: Chinese pronunciation guide / Japanese: Language Lab (hiragana and katakana) / Vietnamese: Guide to pronunciation.


1. Transliteration of Chinese and Japanese Words

The pronunciation of Chinese (Mandarin) or Japanese is given in brownish lettering so as to set them apart from the English text. This will, I hope, help readers pick their way through (or past!) the large number of Chinese characters in the site.

Chinese Romanisation:

The pronunciation of Chinese words is shown in pin'yin, the standard Mainland romanisation for Mandarin.

In pin'yin, the four tones are normally shown by diacritics (macron, acute accent, upside-down circumflex, and grave accent). Since two of these cannot be easily shown on browsers, except with Unicode, tones have been indicated by raised numbers instead.

First tone (high and flat) is shown as superscript1. E.g., is written as ma1.

Second tone (rising) is shown as superscript2. E.g., is written as ma2.

Third tone (low falling then rising) is shown as superscript3. E.g., is written as ma3.

Fourth tone (falling) is shown as superscript4. E.g., is written as ma4.

The capital of China is shown as Bei3 jing1 under this system. Much against my better judgement, I've separated the syllables. This gives the erroneous impression that each syllable is an independent word, but I've been forced to do so for visual convenience. On some pages I've linked syllables using hyphens, e.g. Bei3-jing1. Ideally, this should be written as one word: Běijīng.

Note: Where Chinese words appear as normal words in an English text, tone marks are omitted and syllables are usually run together. In this case, the capital of China is shown as 'Beijing'. For place names in Hongkong or Taiwan, the local romanisation is followed (e.g., 'Taipei', not 'Taibei').

See this page for a discussion of Romanisation, in particular a pet peeve about tone marks.

Japanese Romanisation:

The pronunciation of Japanese words is shown in the Hepburn romanisation. This is the easiest system for foreign readers to understand, being relatively close to English spelling. Kunrei-siki, an alternative system that follows hiragana and katakana more closely, is a more elegant romanisation, but for most non-speakers of Japanese it's not an intuitive guide to pronunciation. (See also this interesting article on Japan's Romaji conundrum.)

I would prefer to use macrons for long vowels, but this is not possible on web browsers. Therefore, Japanese long vowels are indicated by doubling. Thus,

(Note: the current trend is to represent long 'o' as 'ou'. I do not use this method as it wipes out the useful distinction between long 'o' and the real 'ou' sound).

Wo (the object marker) is shown as o.

The capital of Japan, Tōkyō, is Tookyoo under this system. For British English speakers, this sounds like the words 'Talk your', not 'Too cue'.

Note: For the representation of Japanese names and other words in normal English text, vowel length is not indicated. The capital of Japan becomes 'Tokyo' under this system.


2. Vietnamese

Vietnamese is shown in the standard quoc ngu orthography, a romanised script with diacritics. The capital of Vietnam becomes Ha Noi under this system. Note that syllables are separated in standard Vietnamese script.

For ordinary mention of personal and place names and other Vietnamese words (such as 'quoc ngu' or 'chu nom') in the English text, diacritics have been omitted. Syllables are run together where it seems appropriate (the capital of Vietnam becomes 'Hanoi', not 'Ha Noi'), but in most cases I've followed the common practice of splitting Vietnamese words into two syllables in English (e.g., 'nuoc mam', not 'nuocmam').

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