Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: Re: 下頓別 = Shimotombetsu or Shimotonbetsu
Date: Wed, 01 Apr 2009 06:06:34 GMT
> I was wondering if you could help me. I have been having a debate about how to spell 下頓別 in romaji.
> The town's official (on their street signs) is Shimotonbetsu. But, when I was doing a project online with the Japanese Teacher of English, he had me spell it Shimotombetsu - he said it was more correct. Then, I got an email saying it should be Shimatonbetsu from a foreign English teacher, with this rationale:
> Ahh yes, revisions history. You actually get the credit for informing me of that. I hope you consider that a big honor considering how much of a stalwart I am for the wiki’s. Looking at the article I actually noticed an error (you’ll be happy to know I utilized Wikipedia’s routes of contacting you, which directed me to this very email). The junior high school of focus right now should actually written “Shimatonbetsu.” While some Japanese words seem to have a short “m” to the western ear (I’m saying “short” to distinguish ma, mi, mu, me, and mo, which are legitimate reorganizations of Japanese) every modern system of romanizing Japanese that I’ve seen transcribes it as a “n.” The Hepburn system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hepburn_romanization) is the most widely used–as well Wikiepedia’s default system, from what I can tell–and transcribes しまとんべつ’s “ん” into “n.” I suppose the English spelling of てんぷら, tempura, is a good example Japanese-English transcriptions before there was as much standardization. English-speakers wanted their fried food immediately! When it comes to gluttonous, greasy, wonderful food, there’s no time for petty accuracy.
> Does anyone have any thoughts on the proper romaji spelling? Thanks in advance.
Given that し is "shi" and つ is "tsu," it seems that it should be consistent and put ん as "m" in this case. I.e., if we're going the phonetic route, let's stick with it. If it were Simotonbetu (or Simatonbetu) "n" would be more consistent, as that spelling is more phonemic. But given that ん is such a chameleon, it would be pretty difficult to always write it phonetically in rômaji, so it's probably better to just leave it as "n" when writing phonetically. It's not like anyone who doesn't know Japanese pronunciation ever gets it right anyway, and it would prevent you from having to write hoN or hoõya or kaŋgaeru. Perhaps that was the line of thinking behind Hepburn's romanization and keeping it "n" no matter where it is.
All that having been said, I personally don't care all that much about it. I'd probably write it Shimotonbetsu/Shimatonbetsu (whichever the correct vowel is), but then again I do my best to not write rômaji (I find it annoying and haven't had a use for it in quite some time, this post aside).
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