The term rōmaji (ローマ字, or in the past 羅馬字) indicates the characters of the Latin alphabet used within the framework of the Japanese writing. They add again to the three initial graphic systems of the Japanese: the Kanji, the Hiragana and the Katakana.
They are little used in the Japanese language and are used especially for:
- To cure the technical incompatibilities, when the traditional characters are not available (Web addresses or e-mail);
- To access texts starting from a Latin keyboard - QWERTY generally - in the data-processing software, and more generally in the man-machine interfaces. (ローマ字入力 rōmaji-nyūryoku : seizure in rōmaji). Example:
→ More details on the page Wapuro romaji
To transcribe Japanese names for the Westerners: road signs, names of the stations and the subway stations, names and first names on the passports, the inscription “Japanese” on the postage stamps, etc
- Some Initials S: NHK (delivery enuetchikē ): Nihon Hosō Kyōkai, public service of radio and television; OL (delivery ōeru ): Office Lady, employee; or of the mixed compounds character Latin-sinogramme like W 杯 (delivery wārudokappu ): World Cup, world cup.
- In Algebra: there = X ² + 5x + 4 (ワイイコールエックス二乗足す五エックス足す四), wai ikōru ekkusu nijō tasu go ekkusu tasu yon .
Because of the uses stated above, the Latin characters are taught as of the elementary school.
Several transcription S of the Japanese was proposed. The first transcriptions are conceived by the first missionary S and commercial Portuguese at the 16th century. Thus, appears towards 1591, the first Japanese book written in rōmaji Sanctos No Gosagveo No vchi Naqigaqi (サントスの御作業の内抜書 /santos No gosagyō No uchi nukigaki), delivers religious written by the Jesuit Portuguese Alessandro Valignano. Other transcriptions are proposed by French, Italian and German, but only the Dutch transcription is present at Japan during the years of insulation imposed by the Shogunat of Edo.
At the time of the period Meiji appear the first modern transcriptions. As of 1867, the American missionary James Curtis Hepburn proposes his method of transcription, based on the Phonétique of Japanese and who thus meets a great success near the foreigners. Even in France, it makes null and void the French-speaking transcription suggested by Leon Pagès. Tanakadate Aikitsu creates in 1885 a new transcription, nearer to the logic of the written form of the kana. This transcription is taken again and supplemented by the Japanese government which standardizes the transcription kunrei-shiki in 1939 and 1954.
Comparison of the principal transcriptions
The other syllables are marked in an identical way for the three systems.
There exist divergences on:
- long vowels: they are noted by a Macron in the methods Hepburn and Nihon-shiki, by a Circonflexe in the method Kunrei;
- the ん: the first versions of the Hepburn method replace it by “me when it is followed of a “B” or of a “p” in its transcribed version;
- the enclitic particles: the particles は, ヘ and を are transcribed by wa , E and O .
Japanese names of the letters of the alphabet
The pronunciation being used to spell by oral examination a word written in Latin alphabet imitates the names of the English letters of the alphabet:
- Convertisseur Rōmaji-Kana Transforme the rōmaji into kanas
- Page in Japanese documenting the various methods of transcription of Japanese
- Furigana.jp converts the Web pages or the Japanese texts into three various formats to facilitate the reading of the characters: furigana, kana or romaji
- Keyboard Katana
- Keyboard Hiragana
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