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TYJ Romanised Japanese in English

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This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese
4.1. Romanised Japanese in English

The words at the beginning of sentences, as well as proper nouns, are written with a capital letter in Romanized Japanese precisely like in English.

As I have explained, a long vowel is written with a vowel letter with a circumflex ("^") or a macron ("¯") instead of two duplicating letters. Circumflexes are often omitted in English even though that makes confusion. Remember that in colloquial Japanese, "ei" is often pronounced as [e:] like "ê".

HiraganaPronunciationStandard RomanizationRomanization without circumflexes
ああ[a:]âa
いい[i:]îii
うう[ɯ:]ûu
えい[ei] or [e:]eiei
ええ[e:]êe
おう[o:]ôo
おお[o:]ôo

Here is an example:

Hiragana:とうきょう
Pitch:L H H H
Romanization:Tô kyô
Meaning:Tôkyô (noun)

The phonemes of this word are /to/, /H/, /kyo/, and /H/. /H/ means a long vowel. Using circumflexes for long vowels produces "Tôkyô", which becomes "Tokyo" if the circumflexes are omitted. In fact, the circumflexes are almost always omitted in English. Even though this word has four morae, its English notation Tokyo looks like it had only two morae. I recommend using circumflexes whenever possible. If you can't, writing "oo" instead of "ô" is better than just removing circumflexes.

The time length necessary to pronounce this word is the same as that for よこはま "Yokohama" because both have four morae. Many English speakers pronounce Yokohama much longer than a native Japanese speaker would do.

Four your interest: Tôkyô has been capital of Japan since 1603, and it was called えど "Edo" before 1868.

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About author
Takasugi
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

I work as a display engineer.

One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.

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