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System of transcribing Japanese sounds into the Latin alphabet
Hepburn romanization (Japanese: , Hepburn: Hebon-shiki r?maji, lit. "Hepburn-style Roman letters") is the most widely-used system of romanization for the Japanese language. Published in 1886 by American missionary James Curtis Hepburn, it uses consonants that approximate those in English and vowels that approximate those in Italian. The "modified Hepburn system" (, sh?sei Hebon-shiki), also known as the "standard system" (, Hy?jun-shiki), was published with revisions in 1908.
Although Kunrei-shiki romanization is the style favored by the Japanese government, Hepburn remains the most widely-used method of Japanese romanization. It is learned by most foreign students of Japanese, and is used within Japan for romanizing personal names, locations, and other information such as train tables and road signs. People who speak English or Romance languages will generally be more accurate in pronouncing unfamiliar Japanese words romanized in the Hepburn style compared to other systems.
In 1867, American missionary James Curtis Hepburn published the first modern Japanese-English dictionary. In 1886, he published the dictionary's third edition, which popularized a version of his system with input from an international commission consisting of Japanese and foreign scientists. In 1908, the Society for the Propagation of Romanization (, R?maji Hirome-kai), led by educator Kan? Jigor?, published a version of the Hepburn system with revisions, which is known today as the "modified Hepburn" (, sh?sei Hebon-shiki) or "standard system" (, Hy?jun-shiki).
In 1972 a revised version of Hepburn was codified as ANSI standard Z39.11-1972. It was proposed in 1989 as a draft for ISO 3602 but rejected in favor of the Kunrei-shiki romanization. The ANSI Z39.11-1972 standard was deprecated on October 6, 1994.
In many other areas that it lacks de jure status, Hepburn remains the de facto standard. Signs and notices in city offices and police stations and at shrines, temples and attractions also use it. English-language newspapers and media use the simplified form of Hepburn. Cities and prefectures use it in information for English-speaking residents and visitors, and English-language publications by the Japanese Foreign Ministry use simplified Hepburn as well. Official tourism information put out by the government uses it, as do guidebooks, both local and foreign, on Japan.
Many students of Japanese as a foreign language learn Hepburn.
There are many variants of the Hepburn romanization. The two most common styles are as follows:
The Traditional Hepburn, as defined in various editions of Hepburn's dictionary, with the third edition (1886) often considered authoritative (although changes in kana usage must be accounted for). It is characterized by the rendering of syllabic n as m before the consonants b, m and p: Shimbashi for .
Modified Hepburn (, Sh?sei Hebon-shiki), also known as Revised Hepburn, in which (among other points) the rendering of syllabic n as m before certain consonants is no longer used: Shinbashi for . The style was introduced in the third edition of Kenky?sha's New Japanese-English Dictionary (1954), was adopted by the Library of Congress as one of its ALA-LC romanizations, and is the most common version of the system today.
In Japan itself, there are some variants officially mandated for various uses:
Railway Standard (, Tetsud? Keiji Kijun Kitei), which mostly follows the Hy?jun-shiki R?maji, however syllabic n is rendered as m before b, m and p. Japan Railways and other major railways use it for station names.
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Standard, how to spell Roman letters (Hepburn style) of road signs, which follows the modified Hepburn style. It is used for road signs.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Passport Standard (?, Gaimush? Ryoken Kitei), a permissive standard, which explicitly allows the use of "non-Hepburn romaji" (, hi-Hebon-shiki r?maji) in personal names, notably for passports. In particular, it renders the syllabic n as m before b, m and p, and romanizes long o as oh, oo or ou (Satoh, Satoo or Satou for ).
Details of the variants can be found below.
The romanizations set out in the first and second versions of Hepburn's dictionary are primarily of historical interest. Notable differences from the third and later versions include:
The following differences are in addition to those in the second version:
? was written as sz.
? was written as tsz.
? and ? were written as du.
The main feature of Hepburn is that its orthography is based on English phonology. More technically, when syllables that are constructed systematically according to the Japanese syllabary and contain an "unstable" consonant in the modern spoken language, the orthography is changed to something that better matches the real sound as an English-speaker would pronounce it. For example, ? is written shi not si.
Some linguists such as Harold E. Palmer, Daniel Jones and Otto Jespersen object to Hepburn since the pronunciation-based spellings can obscure the systematic origins of Japanese phonetic structures, inflections, and conjugations. Supporters of Hepburn[who?] argue that it is not intended as a linguistic tool.
The long vowels are generally indicated by macrons ( ¯ ). Since the macron is usually missing on typewriters and people may not know how to input it on computer keyboards, the circumflex accent ( ^ ) is often used in its place.
The combinations of vowels are written as follows in traditional/modified Hepburn:
A + A
In traditional and modified:
The combination of a + a is written aa if they are in two adjacent syllables.
There are many variations on the Hepburn system for indicating the long vowels. For example, () can be written as:
T?ky? - indicated with macrons. That follows the rules of the traditional and modified Hepburn systems and is considered to be standard.
Tokyo - not indicated at all. That is common for Japanese words that have been adopted into English and is also the convention used in the de facto Hepburn used in signs and other English-language information around Japan, mentioned in the paragraph on legal status.
Tôkyô - indicated with circumflex accents, like the alternative Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki romanizations. They are often used when macrons are unavailable or difficult to input, due to their visual similarity.
Tohkyoh - indicated with an h (only applies after o). It is sometimes known as "passport Hepburn" as the Japanese Foreign Ministry has authorized (but not required) it in passports.
Toukyou - written using kana spelling: ? as ou or oo (depending on the kana) and ? as uu. That is sometimes called w?puro style, as it is how text is entered into a Japanese word processor by using a keyboard with Roman characters. The method most accurately represents the way that vowels are written in kana by differentiating between (as in (), written Toukyou in this system) and (as in (), written tooi in this system).
However, using this method makes the pronunciation of ou become ambiguous, either a long o or two different vowels: o and u. See W?puro r?maji#Phonetic accuracy for details.
Tookyoo - written by doubling the long vowels. Some dictionaries such as Pocket Kenkyusha Japanese dictionary and Basic English writers' Japanese-English wordbook follow this style, and it is also used in the JSL form of romanization. It is also used to write words without reference to any particular system.
Syllabic n (?) is written as n before consonants, but as m before labial consonants: b, m, and p. It is sometimes written as n- (with a hyphen) before vowels and y (to avoid confusion between, for example, n + a and ?na, and n + ya and nya), but its hyphen usage is not clear.
The rendering m before labial consonants is not used and is replaced with n. It is written n' (with an apostrophe) before vowels and y.
(?): annai - guide
(): Gunma - Gunma
(): kan'i - simple
(?): shin'y? - trust
Elongated (or "geminate") consonant sounds are marked by doubling the consonant following a sokuon, ?; for consonants that are digraphs in Hepburn (sh, ch, ts), only the first consonant of the set is doubled, except for ch, which is replaced by tch.
* -- The use of ? in these two cases to represent w is rare in modern Japanese except for Internet slang and transcription of the Latin sound [w] into katakana. E.g.: (Mineruwa "Minerva", from Latin MINERVA [m?'n?rwa]); (Wuruk?nusu "Vulcan", from Latin VVLCANVS, Vulc?nus [w?l'ka:n?s]). The wa-type of foreign sounds (as in watt or white) is usually transcribed to ? (wa), while the wu-type (as in wood or woman) is usually to ? (u) or (?).
? -- ? has a rarely-used hiragana form in ? that is also vu in Hepburn romanization systems.
? -- The characters in green are obsolete in modern Japanese and very rarely used.