Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of text from a different writing system to the Roman (Latin) script, or a system for doing so. Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written text, and transcription, for representing the spoken word, and combinations of both. Transcription methods can be subdivided into phonemic transcription, which records the phonemes or units of semantic meaning in speech, and more strict phonetic transcription , which records speech sounds with precision.
There are many consistent or standardized romanization systems. They can be classified by their characteristics. A particular system’s characteristics may make it better-suited for various, sometimes contradictory applications, including document retrieval, linguistic analysis, easy readability, faithful representation of pronunciation.
If the romanization attempts to transliterate the original script, the guiding principle is a one-to-one mapping of characters in the source language into the target script, with less emphasis on how the result sounds when pronounced according to the reader's language. For example, the Nihon-shiki romanization of Japanese allows the informed reader to reconstruct the original Japanese kana syllables with 100% accuracy, but requires additional knowledge for correct pronunciation.
Most romanizations are intended to enable the casual reader who is unfamiliar with the original script to pronounce the source language reasonably accurately. Such romanizations follow the principle of phonemic transcription and attempt to render the significant sounds (phonemes) of the original as faithfully as possible in the target language. The popular Hepburn Romanization of Japanese is an example of a transcriptive romanization designed for English speakers.
A phonetic conversion goes one step further and attempts to depict all phones in the source language, sacrificing legibility if necessary by using characters or conventions not found in the target script. In practice such a representation almost never tries to represent every possible allophone—especially those that occur naturally due to coarticulation effects—and instead limits itself to the most significant allophonic distinctions. The International Phonetic Alphabet is the most common system of phonetic transcription.
For most language pairs, building a usable romanization involves trade-offs between the two extremes. Pure transcriptions are generally not possible, as the source language usually contains sounds and distinctions not found in the target language, but which must be shown for the romanized form to be comprehensible. Furthermore, due to diachronic and synchronic variance no written language represents any spoken language with perfect accuracy and the vocal interpretation of a script may vary by a great degree among languages. In modern times the chain of transcription is usually spoken foreign language, written foreign language, written native language, spoken (read) native language. Reducing the number of those processes, i.e. removing one or both steps of writing, usually leads to more accurate oral articulations. In general, outside a limited audience of scholars, romanizations tend to lean more towards transcription. As an example, consider the Japanese martial art 柔術: the Nihon-shiki romanization zyûzyutu may allow someone who knows Japanese to reconstruct the kana syllables じゅうじゅつ, but most native English speakers, or rather readers, would find it easier to guess the pronunciation from the Hepburn version, jūjutsu .
The Arabic alphabet is used to write Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Pashto as well as numerous other languages in the Muslim world, particularly African and Asian languages without alphabets of their own. Romanization standards include the following:
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2015)
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2015)
There are romanization systems for both Modern and Ancient Greek.
The Hebrew alphabet is romanized using several standards:
The Brahmic family of abugidas is used for languages of the Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia. There is a long tradition in the west to study Sanskrit and other Indic texts in Latin transliteration. Various transliteration conventions have been used for Indic scripts since the time of Sir William Jones.
Hindustani is an Indo-Aryan language with extreme digraphia and diglossia resulting from the Hindi–Urdu controversy starting in the 1800s. Technically, Hindustani itself is recognized by neither the language community nor any governments. Two standardized registers, Standard Hindi and Standard Urdu, are recognized as official languages in India and Pakistan. However, in practice the situation is,
The digraphia renders any work in either script largely inaccessible to users of the other script, though otherwise Hindustani is a perfectly mutually intelligible language, essentially meaning that any kind of text-based open source collaboration is impossible among devanagari and nastaʿlīq readers.
Initiated in 2011, the Hamari Boli Initiativeis a full-scale open-source language planning initiative aimed at Hindustani script, style, status & lexical reform and modernization. One of primary stated objectives of Hamari Boli is to relieve Hindustani of the crippling devanagari–nastaʿlīq digraphia by way of romanization.
Romanization of the Sinitic languages, particularly Mandarin, has proved a very difficult problem, although the issue is further complicated by political considerations. Because of this, many romanization tables contain Chinese characters plus one or more romanizations or Zhuyin.
Romanization (or, more generally, Roman letters) is called "rōmaji" in Japanese. The most common systems are:
While romanization has taken various and at times seemingly unstructured forms, some sets of rules do exist:
Several problems with MR led to the development of the newer systems:
Thai, spoken in Thailand and some areas of Laos, Burma and China, is written with its own script, probably descended from mixture of Tai–Laotian and Old Khmer, in the Brahmic family.
The Nuosu language, spoken in southern China, is written with its own script, the Yi script. The only existing romanisation system is YYPY (Yi Yu Pin Yin), which represents tone with letters attached to the end of syllables, as Nuosu forbids codas. It does not use diacritics, and as such due to the large phonemic inventory of Nuosu, it requires frequent use of digraphs, including for monophthong vowels.
In English language library catalogues, bibliographies, and most academic publications, the Library of Congress transliteration method is used worldwide.
In linguistics, scientific transliteration is used for both Cyrillic and Glagolitic alphabets. This applies to Old Church Slavonic, as well as modern Slavic languages that use these alphabets.
A system based on scientific transliteration and ISO/R 9:1968 was considered official in Bulgaria since the 1970s. Since the late 1990s, Bulgarian authorities have switched to the so-called Streamlined System avoiding the use of diacritics and optimized for compatibility with English. This system became mandatory for public use with a law passed in 2009.Where the old system uses <č,š,ž,št,c,j,ă>, the new system uses <ch,sh,zh,sht,ts,y,a>.
The new Bulgarian system was endorsed for official use also by UN in 2012,and by BGN and PCGN in 2013.
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (June 2015)
This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (June 2015)
There is no single universally accepted system of writing Russian using the Latin script—in fact there are a huge number of such systems: some are adjusted for a particular target language (e.g. German or French), some are designed as a librarian's transliteration, some are prescribed for Russian travellers' passports; the transcription of some names is purely traditional. All this has resulted in great reduplication of names. E.g. the name of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky may also be written as Tchaykovsky, Tchajkovskij, Tchaikowski, Tschaikowski, Czajkowski, Čajkovskij, Čajkovski, Chajkovskij, Çaykovski, Chaykovsky, Chaykovskiy, Chaikovski, Tshaikovski, Tšaikovski, Tsjajkovskij etc. Systems include:
The Latin script for Syriac was developed in the 1930s, following the state policy for minority languages of the Soviet Union, with some material published.
The 2010 Ukrainian National system has been adopted by the UNGEGN in 2012 and by the BGN/PCGN in 2020. It is also very close to the modified (simplified) ALA-LC system, which has remained unchanged since 1941.
The chart below shows the most common phonemic transcription romanization used for several different alphabets. While it is sufficient for many casual users, there are multiple alternatives used for each alphabet, and many exceptions. For details, consult each of the language sections above. (Hangul characters are broken down into jamo components.)
|A||a||A||А||ⴰ||ַ, ֲ, ָ||َ, ا||ا, آ||ア||ㅏ||ㄚ|
|B||b||ΜΠ, Β||Б||ⴱ||בּ||ﺏ ﺑ ﺒ ﺐ||ﺏ ﺑ||ㅂ||ㄅ|
|D||d||ΝΤ, Δ||Д||ⴷ, ⴹ||ד||ﺩ — ﺪ, ﺽ ﺿ ﻀ ﺾ||د||ㄷ||ㄉ|
|DH||ð||Δ||דֿ||ﺫ — ﺬ|
|E||e/ɛ||Ε, ΑΙ||Э||ⴻ||, ֱ, י ֵֶ, ֵ, י ֶ||エ, ヱ||ㅔ||ㄟ|
|F||f||Φ||Ф||ⴼ||פ (or its final form ף )||ﻑ ﻓ ﻔ ﻒ||ﻑ||ㄈ|
|G||ɡ||ΓΓ, ΓΚ, Γ||Г||ⴳ, ⴳⵯ||ג||گ||ㄱ||ㄍ|
|GH||ɣ||Γ||Ғ||ⵖ||גֿ, עֿ||ﻍ ﻏ ﻐ ﻎ||ق غ|
|H||h||Η||Һ||ⵀ, ⵃ||ח, ה||ﻩ ﻫ ﻬ ﻪ, ﺡ ﺣ ﺤ ﺢ||ه ح ﻫ||ㅎ||ㄏ|
|I||i/ɪ||Η, Ι, Υ, ΕΙ, ΟΙ||И, І||ⵉ||ִ, י ִ||دِ||イ, ヰ||ㅣ||ㄧ|
|J||ʤ||TZ̈||ДЖ, Џ||ⵊ||ג׳||ﺝ ﺟ ﺠ ﺞ||ج||ㅈ||ㄐ|
|K||k||Κ||К||ⴽ, ⴽⵯ||כּ||ﻙ ﻛ ﻜ ﻚ||ک||ㅋ||ㄎ|
|KH||x||X||Х||ⵅ||כ, חֿ (or its final form ך )||ﺥ ﺧ ﺨ ﺦ||خ|
|L||l||Λ||Л||ⵍ||ל||ﻝ ﻟ ﻠ ﻞ||ل||ㄹ||ㄌ|
|M||m||Μ||М||ⵎ||מ (or its final form ם )||ﻡ ﻣ ﻤ ﻢ||م||ㅁ||ㄇ|
|N||n||Ν||Н||ⵏ||נ (or its final form ן )||ﻥ ﻧ ﻨ ﻦ||ن||ン||ㄴ||ㄋ|
|O||o||Ο, Ω||О||, ֳ, וֹֹ||ُا||オ||ㅗ|
|Q||q||Θ||ⵇ||ק||ﻕ ﻗ ﻘ ﻖ||غ ق||ㄑ|
|R||r||Ρ||Р||ⵔ, ⵕ||ר||ﺭ — ﺮ||ر||ㄹ||ㄖ|
|S||s||Σ||С||ⵙ, ⵚ||ס, שׂ||ﺱ ﺳ ﺴ ﺲ, ﺹ ﺻ ﺼ ﺺ||س ث ص||ㅅ||ㄙ|
|SH||ʃ||Σ̈||Ш||ⵛ||שׁ||ﺵ ﺷ ﺸ ﺶ||ش||ㄕ|
|T||t||Τ||Т||ⵜ, ⵟ||ט, תּ, ת||ﺕ ﺗ ﺘ ﺖ, ﻁ ﻃ ﻄ ﻂ||ت ط||ㅌ||ㄊ|
|TH||θ||Θ||תֿ||ﺙ ﺛ ﺜ ﺚ|
|TS||ʦ||ΤΣ||Ц||צ (or its final form ץ )|
|U||u||ΟΥ, Υ||У||ⵓ||, וֻּ||دُ||ウ||ㅜ||ㄩ|
|W||w||Ω||ⵡ||ו, וו||ﻭ — ﻮ|
|Y||j||Υ, Ι, ΓΙ||Й, Ы, Ј||ⵢ||י||ﻱ ﻳ ﻴ ﻲ||ی|
|Z||z||Ζ||З||ⵣ, ⵥ||ז||ﺯ — ﺰ, ﻅ ﻇ ﻈ ﻆ||ز ظ ذ ض||ㄗ|
Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters in predictable ways, such as Greek ⟨α⟩ → ⟨a⟩, Cyrillic ⟨д⟩ → ⟨d⟩, Greek ⟨χ⟩ → the digraph ⟨ch⟩, Armenian ⟨ն⟩ → ⟨n⟩ or Latin ⟨æ⟩ → ⟨ae⟩.
Devanagari is an Indian script used for many languages of India and Nepal, including Hindi, Marathi, Nepali and Sanskrit. There are several somewhat similar methods of transliteration from Devanagari to the Roman script, including the influential and lossless IAST notation.
The romanization of the Russian language, aside from its primary use for including Russian names and words in text written in a Latin alphabet, is also essential for computer users to input Russian text who either do not have a keyboard or word processor set up for inputting Cyrillic, or else are not capable of typing rapidly using a native Russian keyboard layout (JCUKEN). In the latter case, they would type using a system of transliteration fitted for their keyboard layout, such as for English QWERTY keyboards, and then use an automated tool to convert the text into Cyrillic.
ISO 15919 "Transliteration of Devanagari and related Indic scripts into Latin characters" is one of a series of international standards for romanization by the International Organization for Standardization. It was published in 2001 and uses diacritics to map the much larger set of consonants and vowels in Brahmic and Nastaliq scripts to the Latin script.
The romanization of Ukrainian, or Latinization of Ukrainian, is the representation of the Ukrainian language in Latin letters. Ukrainian is natively written in its own Ukrainian alphabet, which is based on the Cyrillic script. Romanization may be employed to represent Ukrainian text or pronunciation for non-Ukrainian readers, on computer systems that cannot reproduce Cyrillic characters, or for typists who are not familiar with the Ukrainian keyboard layout. Methods of romanization include transliteration and transcription.
The Royal Thai General System of Transcription (RTGS) is the official system for rendering Thai words in the Latin alphabet. It was published by the Royal Institute of Thailand.
The Hebrew language uses the Hebrew alphabet with optional vowel diacritics. The romanization of Hebrew is the use of the Latin alphabet to transliterate Hebrew words.
Romanization of Greek is the transliteration (letter-mapping) or transcription (sound-mapping) of text from the Greek alphabet into the Latin alphabet.
Romanization of Bulgarian is the practice of transliteration of text in Bulgarian from its conventional Cyrillic orthography into the Latin alphabet. Romanization can be used for various purposes, such as rendering of proper names and place names in foreign-language contexts, or for informal writing of Bulgarian in environments where Cyrillic is not easily available. Official use of romanization by Bulgarian authorities is found, for instance, in identity documents and in road signage. Several different standards of transliteration exist, one of which was chosen and made mandatory for common use by the Bulgarian authorities in a law of 2009.
The romanization of Arabic is the systematic rendering of written and spoken Arabic in the Latin script. Romanized Arabic is used for various purposes, among them transcription of names and titles, cataloging Arabic language works, language education when used instead of or alongside the Arabic script, and representation of the language in scientific publications by linguists. These formal systems, which often make use of diacritics and non-standard Latin characters and are used in academic settings or for the benefit of non-speakers, contrast with informal means of written communication used by speakers such as the Latin-based Arabic chat alphabet.
The romanization of Khmer is a representation of the Khmer (Cambodian) language using letters of the Latin alphabet. This is most commonly done with Khmer proper nouns, such as names of people and geographical names, as in a gazetteer.
Scientific transliteration, variously called academic, linguistic, international, or scholarly transliteration, is an international system for transliteration of text from the Cyrillic script to the Latin script (romanization). This system is most often seen in linguistics publications on Slavic languages.
Romanization or Latinization of Belarusian is any system for transliterating written Belarusian from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet.
BGN/PCGN romanization system for Russian is a method for romanization of Cyrillic Russian texts, that is, their transliteration into the Latin alphabet as used in the English language.
The romanization of Macedonian is the transliteration of text in Macedonian from the Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet into the Latin alphabet. Romanization can be used for various purposes, such as rendering of proper names in foreign contexts, or for informal writing of Macedonian in environments where Cyrillic is not easily available. Official use of romanization by North Macedonia's authorities is found, for instance, on road signage and in passports. Several different codified standards of transliteration currently exist and there is widespread variability in practice.
The Urdu alphabet, is the right-to-left alphabet used for Urdu. It is a modification of the Persian alphabet, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic alphabet. The Urdu alphabet has up to 39 or 40 distinct letters with no distinct letter cases and is typically written in the calligraphic Nastaʿlīq script, whereas Arabic is more commonly written in the Naskh style.
Romanization of Persian or Latinization of Persian is the representation of the Persian language with the Latin script. Several different romanization schemes exist, each with its own set of rules driven by its own set of ideological goals.
There are various systems of romanization of the Armenian alphabet.
The former State Administration of Surveying and Mapping, Geographical Names Committee and former Script Reform Committee of the People's Republic of China have adopted several romanizations for Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan and Uyghur, officially known as pinyin, Regulation of Phonetic Transcription in Hanyu Pinyin Letters of Place Names in Minority Nationality Languages and Orthography of Chinese Personal Name in Hanyu Pinyin Letters. These systems may be referred to as SASM/GNC/SRC transcriptions or SASM/GNC romanizations.
Romanization of the Burmese alphabet is representation of the Burmese language or Burmese names in the Latin alphabet.