July 6th, 2005



The existing systems of romanizing Japanese are unsatisfactory: Hepburn doesn't map directly to kana, Kunrei-shiki and Nihon-shiki's pronunciation is not obvious to non-natives (the primary users of rōmaji), waapuro is an anything-goes mess, and JSL is just odd. So, I've come up with my own solution, that I believe incorporates the best aspects of all of them. The advantages:
  • Pronunciation is unambiguous. There is only one case where the pronunciation the spelling suggests to a naïve speaker isn't really correct, but it's rare and close enough to be minor.
  • There is a direct mapping to and from kana.
  • Pitch accent—which can be phonologically salient—is marked, like JSL but unlike all other systems (including kana).
  • Can be written entirely in the Latin-1 character set.
  • A standard way of spelling a trailing small tsu.
  • Marking for rendaku
The latter two are not found in any of the other systems.

Of course, there are disadvantages:
  • That one case where the spelling doesn't precisely suggest the proper pronunciation.
  • Since it differentiates between homophonous kana, the spelling can not always be unambiguously determined from pronunciation by a naïve listener; however, the simpler spelling is usually the correct one.
  • Unlike NS and KS, it is not strictly "one consonant, one letter". I'm not sure if that's really much of a disadvantage at all, frankly.
  • Some verb conjugations seem slightly irregular. It shares this problem with Hepburn, but it seems to be a necessary compromise for good naïve pronunciation. And since kana are usually taught in organized rows and columns, I don't think it's much of a stumbling block.
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