日本語の秘密 5/33


日本語の秘密/ The Key to NIHON-GO

by 岸本建夫 [Kishimoto Tatsuo] 1999
OCR/Corr by most.cyak@gmail.com, Oct 2014


Section 1 The Extremely Simple Rules of Japanese

→ The character し should be written as si rather than shi

  Japan began to modernize in the latter half of the 19th century, and by the time the Edo Period changed to the Meiji Period (1868-1911) it had already deepened its contact with the West. This was the first time that Roman letters were spread to represent Japanese characters. Now, nearly 150 years have passed since then. Strangely enough, however, the usage of Roman letters to write Japanese was never made uniform. The Japanese syllabary table used in this book was adapted by the “Japan Society for Roman Letters”, but this table is not always used. For example, the following illustrates alternative romanizations for some characters.

     し: si or shi
     つ: tu or tsu
     ち: ti or chi
     じ: zi or ji

  If you ask why this has happened, I believe it has a lot to do with the influence of the English language. The above readings shi and tsu were created by an American ── James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911), the first premier of Meiji Gakuin University; and are part of the so-called Hepburn Method. This method makes Japanese romanizations closer to English in style. At present, the Hepburn Method is predominant in Japan. The signs at stations are written using the Hepburn Method. This shows the decisive influence that the American troops had during the occupation of postwar Japan.

  The “Hepburn Method” is inappropriate as a method of expressing Japanese, however. The original Japanese “a-i-u-e-o” table is arranged so that characters consist of either a vowel or a combination of one consonant and one vowel. However, the Hepburn Method breaks this rule by creating exceptions like three letter romanizations for characters consisting of two consonants and one vowel, making Japanese romanizations irrational. I can’t say that the fad for using the Hepburn Method is very desirable, but in the present day when the influence of English is stronger than ever, I suppose there is nothing one can do to change the situation. When you understand why this difference has emerged, it would be a good idea to learn both types of readings, since neither method is very difficult to learn.

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