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What are your biggest transliteration pet peeves?

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Otter in disguise
<a href="/en/translator/rezz" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1307992">Rezz</a>
Joined: 19.09.2016
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Hello there!
As the title suggests, I created this topic so you guys can share your biggest pet peeves when it comes to romaji transliterations. Those little details that make you want to pull your hair out and scream in frustration, even when they're technically allowed or even correct.

In my case, it really bugs me when people transliterate おう as Ō. Sure, I'll take macrons when there's a ー, or even when there's a double vowel, but with おう? Seriously? I know it isn't wrong to do it, it just... Irks me a lot for some unfathomable reason.

It also bothers me when people separate a verb from its conjugation, eg.: 食べている -> "tabete iru". Why. Just... Why.

Really looking forward to hear you guys' opinions!

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Since it's about opinions, I know next to nothing about Japanese, but still, it seems the way grammar is designed does not fit the language very well. More like people trying to cram Japanese into the English way of thinking.

Even the parts of speech are not really matching our Western "noun/verb/adjective" structure.

"the cat was not black" -> kuro-nakatta neko desu -> black negative-past cat to-be

"I didn't eat" -> watashi wa tabe-nakatta -> I1 (subject-speaking) to-eat negative-past

What is this "nakatta" supposed to be? A flexion of the adjective ? But then what does the adjective agree with ? A flexional ending of the "negative past" tense ? What is the point, since verbs don't agree with the subject anyway ?

Looks more like a suffix meaning "negation + past + not-too-obsequious politeness" to me, that can be put wherever it is most convenient (following what we Westerners call a verb or an adjective).
In the case of the cat, it's the "adjective" that gets the suffix, while the "verb" is left hung out to dry!

Separating these suffixes from the verb is not usual, but that doesn't strike me as illogical.
This is just Gaijin stuff anyway, I suppose natives think in Kanji and don't need any of these Westerner spaces Regular smile

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<a href="/en/translator/aoidaisy" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1372466">aoidaisy</a>
Joined: 16.02.2018

Good topic!

This is something that I don't think I've seen here but I have on other sites... Similar to verbs being separated from the conjugation, I've seen people break up the entire word. Like tabeteiru --> ta be te i ru
This just makes it so hard to read! I dislike words being broken up too, but I occasionally will so the word isn't ridiculously long when it has multiple conjugations/tenses like 続けられていても "tsudzukerareteitemo" vs "tsudzukerarete itemo"... It's tricky with long words, I don't really like either way.

What's your preferred way of romanizing づ? I don't like "du". I think "zu" is okay but could be confusing to beginners who don't know when it means ず or づ. I typically go with "dzu" but I know some people don't like that way either.

I think the long vowel issue is probably my biggest pet peeve. I don't mind macrons but I find them a pain to type so I don't use them. Two that really bug me that are used in the Genki textbooks are おう and えい. I don't like when おう is written as "oo" because to me, I always read that as う. The only time I use "oo" is with おお because I can't think of a better way without throwing in a lone macron. Thankfully, there aren't many words that have it. I prefer えい to be written as "ei" instead of "ee" because I got used to seeing "ei" first and because I usually read this as い.

Otter in disguise
<a href="/en/translator/rezz" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1307992">Rezz</a>
Joined: 19.09.2016
ingirumimusnocte a écrit :

"the cat was not black" -> kuro-nakatta neko desu -> black negative-past cat to-be

I'd personally phrase this sentence as "neko wa kurokunakatta". I'll explain why later.

ingirumimusnocte a écrit :

What is this "nakatta" supposed to be? A flexion of the adjective ? But then what does the adjective agree with ? A flexional ending of the "negative past" tense ? What is the point, since verbs don't agree with the subject anyway ?

Looks more like a suffix meaning "negation + past + not-too-obsequious politeness" to me, that can be put wherever it is most convenient (following what we Westerners call a verb or an adjective).
In the case of the cat, it's the "adjective" that gets the suffix, while the "verb" is left hung out to dry!

Like you said, it sounds crazy when you try to cram it into a "western" way of thinking - but that's the thing; it's a completely different language, with a completely different set of rules, of course it's going to seem weird. I've found the best way to learn is to just start all the way from scratch and carefully observe how the grammar works, since many concepts and rules don't even have equivalents in English or other similar languages. It can be a bit of a pain at the beginning, but it's definitely achievable Regular smile

Looking at your example with the cat, that sentence doesn't actually have a verb - people usually tell you "desu" is the equivalent to the verb "to be", but I've found that to be wrong. It's more of a polite declarative expression thingy that doesn't really have an equivalent in English. Let's take a look at the sentence I suggested: "neko wa kurokunakatta". If we broke it down, we'd have something like "subject + subject indicator particle + past negative form adjective". The reason why it's kurokunakatta and not kuro nakatta is because they actually mean different things; the first one is the past negative form of "Kuroi", which means "black in color"; "kuro nakatta" would roughly translate as "has no black", since "kuro" by itself just means "black", the color, and "nakatta" is the past negative tense of "aru", "have" (it can also mean "be" but we're talking about a living thing so it doesn't apply in this case). Now, if we were to translate it literally into English, it'd be something like "as for cat, was not black", and we didn't need to include desu or a verb because we already know what the subject and the adjectives are. "nakatta" isn't actually a suffix - it's part of the past negative form of the adjective. Keep in mind that this is a grammatical form, not a tense per se. In the case of verbs, it'd be part of the ("informal") tense itself (like tabenakatta) , hence why it doesn't make much sense to separate it from the stem - think of it as writing "They were walk ing to the store".

You could also write it as "kurokunakatta neko" (was-not-black cat), although I haven't really heard it in regular speech, only in songs and other media.

Hope it made some sense. It's difficult to explain Tongue smile

Otter in disguise
<a href="/en/translator/rezz" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1307992">Rezz</a>
Joined: 19.09.2016
aoidaisy a écrit :

Good topic!

This is something that I don't think I've seen here but I have on other sites... Similar to verbs being separated from the conjugation, I've seen people break up the entire word. Like tabeteiru --> ta be te i ru
This just makes it so hard to read! I dislike words being broken up too, but I occasionally will so the word isn't ridiculously long when it has multiple conjugations/tenses like 続けられていても "tsudzukerareteitemo" vs "tsudzukerarete itemo"... It's tricky with long words, I don't really like either way.

People breaking up the entire word? Seriously? Just thinking about it makes me cry. Imagine trying to read an entire transliteration if every syllable was separated like that.... Shudder

Breaking up a word when it's too long makes sense, but doing it just because is a BIG no-no.

aoidaisy a écrit :

What's your preferred way of romanizing づ? I don't like "du". I think "zu" is okay but could be confusing to beginners who don't know when it means ず or づ. I typically go with "dzu" but I know some people don't like that way either.

High five! People romanizing づ as "du" and ぢ as "di" drives me bonkers. We already have sounds for both "du" and "di", and づ and ぢ sound nothing like that! I'm okay with people transliterating づ as "zu", although I personally go with "dzu" since that's how it sounds like to me (or maybe it's because I listen to more "old-fashioned" artists).

aoidaisy a écrit :

I think the long vowel issue is probably my biggest pet peeve. I don't mind macrons but I find them a pain to type so I don't use them. Two that really bug me that are used in the Genki textbooks are おう and えい. I don't like when おう is written as "oo" because to me, I always read that as う. The only time I use "oo" is with おお because I can't think of a better way without throwing in a lone macron. Thankfully, there aren't many words that have it. I prefer えい to be written as "ei" instead of "ee" because I got used to seeing "ei" first and because I usually read this as い.

Exactly! if we know お is "o" and う is "u", why transliterate おう as "oo" and not "ou"?! Or worse, why use a macron?!?! Same with えい. I haven't really heard that many instances where they're pronounced as "ee", and those where they are usually come from more masculine / informal speech.
I honestly only use macrons when there's a dash, and only to show the difference between dashes and double vowels. Although it doesn't really bother me at all when someone transliterates, say, ヒーロー as "hiiroo", since as far as I can tell, it sounds the same.

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<a href="/en/translator/aoidaisy" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1372466">aoidaisy</a>
Joined: 16.02.2018
Rezz a écrit :

Exactly! if we know お is "o" and う is "u", why transliterate おう as "oo" and not "ou"?! Or worse, why use a macron?!?! Same with えい. I haven't really heard that many instances where they're pronounced as "ee", and those where they are usually come from more masculine / informal speech.
I honestly only use macrons when there's a dash, and only to show the difference between dashes and double vowels. Although it doesn't really bother me at all when someone transliterates, say, ヒーロー as "hiiroo", since as far as I can tell, it sounds the same.

The only advantage to macrons that I see is so that words don't become overly long if they have a lot of long vowels. At least that's better than just dropping the long vowel out completely like they've done with city names - Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, etc. Only in this case would I prefer a macron since people are so used to how it's spelled. A macron is a smaller change than Toukyou, Kyouto, Oosaka.

Clarification on えい, technically えい is supposed to be pronounced as ええ. So like in せんせい it's actually pronounced せんせえ. At least that's what they usually teach in Japanese classes. Most of the time this is how I've heard natives say it but you do hear the い occasionally. I think foreigners tend to over enunciate the い so the major textbooks probably prefer to romanize it as "sensee" instead of "sensei" to help with correct pronunciation. Either way, I don't like the "ee"

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<a href="/en/translator/aoidaisy" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1372466">aoidaisy</a>
Joined: 16.02.2018

When to split conjugated/inflected verbs and adjectives and when to keep them together can be kind of difficult.

I think there's also a bit of a gray area when it comes to 一段/五段 verbs and する verbs.
It's easy to understand why conjugations shouldn't be split with 一段/五段 verbs but with する verbs I think some people aren't sure whether to keep する with the verb or to separate it.

And then you have verbs that are two verbs combined into one word like 思い出す (usually isn't separated) and you also have verbs/adjectives where the second serves more of a grammatical purpose and isn't a single verb like やってみよう or 強くなる (it's pretty common for these to be separated.)

The Library of Congress has a pdf that shows a pretty thorough list of "correct" ways to romanize Japanese. Quotes because everyone seems to have their own "correct" way, hence this forum Regular smile
https://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/romanization/japanese.pdf

Otter in disguise
<a href="/en/translator/rezz" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1307992">Rezz</a>
Joined: 19.09.2016
aoidaisy a écrit :

The only advantage to macrons that I see is so that words don't become overly long if they have a lot of long vowels. At least that's better than just dropping the long vowel out completely like they've done with city names - Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, etc. Only in this case would I prefer a macron since people are so used to how it's spelled. A macron is a smaller change than Toukyou, Kyouto, Oosaka.

Wholeheartedly agree with the city names.

aoidaisy a écrit :

Clarification on えい, technically えい is supposed to be pronounced as ええ. So like in せんせい it's actually pronounced せんせえ. At least that's what they usually teach in Japanese classes. Most of the time this is how I've heard natives say it but you do hear the い occasionally. I think foreigners tend to over enunciate the い so the major textbooks probably prefer to romanize it as "sensee" instead of "sensei" to help with correct pronunciation. Either way, I don't like the "ee"

It's kind of like with おう. Most often than not you don't hear the う, but even then it's important to know it's there - just like in English where you don't really hear a certain vowel, like the "e" in "napped", but you still write it down. True, explaining that えい can sometimes be pronounced as "ee" is important... But that doesn't change that you're dealing with "e" and "i", if that makes any sense.

aoidaisy a écrit :

The Library of Congress has a pdf that shows a pretty thorough list of "correct" ways to romanize Japanese. Quotes because everyone seems to have their own "correct" way, hence this forum Regular smile
https://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/romanization/japanese.pdf

That's a really handy resource, thanks for sharing! You're right, there is a gray area regarding the different types of verbs - but there's also a point where separating or joining verbs and their conjugations / modifiers is a bit too much, don't you think? Like, for example, "Yattemiyou" and "yatte miyou" could be considered okay, but "yatte mi you"... N o p e

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<a href="/en/translator/aoidaisy" class="userpopupinfo username" rel="user1372466">aoidaisy</a>
Joined: 16.02.2018
Rezz a écrit :

It's kind of like with おう. Most often than not you don't hear the う, but even then it's important to know it's there - just like in English where you don't really hear a certain vowel, like the "e" in "napped", but you still write it down. True, explaining that えい can sometimes be pronounced as "ee" is important... But that doesn't change that you're dealing with "e" and "i", if that makes any sense.

Exactly, that's why おう is sometimes written as "oo" - it's done to encourage the long vowel without turning it into a strong う since that's not how it's said. It's good to remember that romanization style is not just a matter of preference but also one of function. Maybe that method (oo and ee) is good for textbooks but that's probably the only place it's useful. Totally agree, that's why えい will always be "ei" to me - easier to have "e" mean え only and not い occasionally.

Rezz a écrit :

That's a really handy resource, thanks for sharing! You're right, there is a gray area regarding the different types of verbs - but there's also a point where separating or joining verbs and their conjugations / modifiers is a bit too much, don't you think? Like, for example, "Yattemiyou" and "yatte miyou" could be considered okay, but "yatte mi you"... N o p e

No problem! Definitely agree! I think verbs should only be split when it makes them easier to read, but even then I don't see a need to split it into more than two parts. "yatte mi you"... absolutely not

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