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This proposal has been assigned on an ad hoc basis to the person or persons named just below, and is now in the Ad hoc proposals queue

This proposal will in the first instance be approved or rejected by the contributors to this page, when the driver deems it ready to call for approval. If there is a controversy, and you contribute to this page, then you have a "vote." If the proposal is approved, then it must be posted to cz-editcouncil so that the Council has a chance to review it and opt to vote on it.

Driver: John Stephenson

Complete explanation

Create a page called CZ:Romanization to deal with issues of how to romanize foreign words, place names and so on that are normally written in other scripts. Subpages for individual languages would be created, e.g. CZ:Romanization/Japanese. Initially, these pages would be forums for discussion on what romanization systems to adopt and precisely how to render (for example) individual vowels and consonants; subsequently, following a vote if no obvious consensus had been reached, these decisions would become CZ policy.


There is typically no one, simple way to render the written form of a language into another alphabet; a single system, and rules within that system, must be selected to avoid confusion. To take just one example, the Japanese word for a small police station (交番 or こうばん) could be written kouban, kōban, kooban or koban - four versions in the same 'Hepburn' romanization system. With pages imported from Wikipedia, their system has been introduced to CZ without discussion; and for original content, an author may well choose another system, leading to confusion as to whether two alternate spellings represent the same word or not.

Discussion would aim at striking a balance at what is culturally and linguistically accurate versus what is easiest for a reader to understand, where said reader is not a user of the language in question. Some romanization systems favour native speakers' understanding of the distinct sounds of their language, while others distort the rendering of the 'phonemes' to show equivalences with the sounds of English. For example, one form of Japanese romanization includes chi because the sound is similar, but not the same as English ch sound; however, to native speakers, the sound is more like ti, and is written as such in another system. Whether to render words strictly accurately or allow potentially misleading spellings if these make it easier for English users is a minefield that needs to be sorted out early.

Other issues might involve the practicalities or reading and contributing to CZ articles: readers might not know what diacritics such as the macron over an ō is supposed to indicate, for example, and complex symbols are often hard for writers to find.

In some cases, there might also be political implications to selecting one form of romanization over another - we need a forum where these issues can be anticipated.


  1. Create CZ:Romanization with a notice describing the purpose of the page and inviting people to add languages as subpages.
  2. Create CZ:Romanization/Japanese as an example: several sections dealing with what romanization system to adopt and the specific ways of rendering certain forms within that system. Use 'for' and 'against' subsections in these to point out benefits and problems.
  3. Use CZ:Romanization/Japanese to start the CZ:Romanization list.
  4. Link to CZ:Romanization appropriately, e.g. at CZ:Article Mechanics.
  5. Invite contributions from interested parties via mailing lists, CZ:International, and the forums.
  6. Where an obvious consensus has been reached, or a majority agreement via a vote, the decision to use one set of conventions would be formally adopted.


The above proposal has been written by me as a solo effort, following Larry's suggestion that I turn this into a proposal. Please feel free to have your say - especially, I would like feedback on implementation and any other reasons why romanization policy is/is not important at this time. John Stephenson 03:07, 4 March 2008 (CST)

Not sure if this is the right place (if not, simply move it). It seems to me that IPA with the addition of the text in its original language should suffice. I admit that the IPA standard is only readable to experts (and is mostly represented with errors, in most places), but if we want to accurately represent the way a word is pronounced we will find ourselves soon enough going back to it. Ori Redler 10:02, 4 March 2008 (CST)

The IPA is, I think, a separate issue. I certainly agree that it needs to be used, but as it requires phonetics knowledge to understand it, it's not the same thing as romanization: for example, we can use the IPA to show the pronunciation of English words as well. John Stephenson 19:56, 4 March 2008 (CST)
I have to say that I agree with John on this issue. The IPA would be a good system if we were looking to represent the phonology of a given non-English word (or words within English, natch), but the issue is finding a system of romanization for each language that allows readers to transition relatively painlessly from other print media to CZ. Whether or not romanization as a general practice has had its day is another question, but one on which innovation will lose more users than it gains.
A further argument for romanization (or at least the adherence to normal practices of romanization) as against IPA transcription is the transliteration of ancient and archaic languages. A coherent scheme of romanization gives readers a word they can hang their hat on, but the rendering of dead language into phonetic/phonological terms leads too far afield.
It might be helpful if we could develop a subpage for help with romanized terminology (and maybe other related stuff too). My impression is that much of the scholarship on Buddhism (e.g.) is so balkanized in terms of romanization that it would be helpful if we provided a expert-endorsed guide to the terminology. Thanks, Brian P. Long 21:14, 4 March 2008 (CST)

I definitely agree that we should set standards, and I have a few opinions about some of them, though the only one I'd be able to usefully contribute to would be Modern Greek. I like the format proposed by Mr. Stephenson. Anthony Argyriou 15:43, 4 March 2008 (CST)

Thanks, Anthony. The idea is we would eventually have an extensive list of languages linking to pages that anyone could contribute to, so you could have your say at CZ:Romanization/Greek. John Stephenson 19:56, 4 March 2008 (CST)

Perhaps I'm missing something here. I can see three possible objectives for Romanization:

  1. Englishization: to provide speakers of English with something to hang their hat on (as Brian P. Long puts it). That creates a problem, as English is ill fitted to many of the tasks at hand. You'll be hard pressed to find a way to Englishize the German ü or the French oe, let alone an Arabic R' (a mixture of R, Deep throated A, but not quite, and an airy G).
  2. Real Romanization: which solves some problems (you can use ü or ö or é) but creates a new set of problems -- how is "ch" supposed to be read. Speakers of French and German will read this differently.
  3. Semi-Romanization: i.e., giving most of the names in the most common languages without romanization (i.e., Müller or Reich or Armand will be written without Romanization), but with other languages there will be Romanization...

But that brings us back to where we've started -- how do you help pronouncing stuff that English is not built to help pronounce? For example, let's take a simple name like "Rita" in Brazilian Portuguese. The R is pronounced something in-between a "Sh" and a soft "kh" -- We can use "R'" or "Rr" or "Rkh" to denote this, but this doesn't help much because there are numerous other ways to pronounce R -- so we're forced to either create a complex system of Romanization (thus losing the hat hanger) or simply avoid this by Romanizing "Rita" as "Rita" -- just like in English, thus leading people to believe that Rita should be pronounced Rid-ah. Ori Redler 11:46, 5 March 2008 (CST)

I'm sympathetic to your concerns, Ori, and with your concern for giving people help with pronunciation. I am not trying to say that we should ignore the pronunciation of different terms-- indeed, if CZ is ultimately aspiring to be a vital resource for people living and working all over the world, help with pronunciation could be really useful (if someone was trying to discuss Capoeira with a Brazilian, for example, and trying to keep a handle on the Brazilian's pronunciation). While not perfect, IPA is the best thing out there for this, and I am in no way trying to discourage the use of IPA in Citizendium articles. I do believe, however, that we need to exercise care in romanizing other scripts, and I think this was the purpose of John's original proposal.
The purpose of romanizing is A) to allow folks working within the Western tradition to fake pronunciation most of the time and B) to help the lay reader with difficult-to-translate terms (the hat-hanging argument). As far as I know, the basic purpose is to consistently render one script or means of writing into another (and I have to confess ignorance when it comes to idiographic writing). The purpose of romanization is defeated if we were to scrupulously render different allophones (of course, we can give the linguistically-inclined reader help with different conditioning environments on articles about a specific language, but that is a different question).
I don't think that anyone today really wants to go back to either Englishization or Semi-romanization. Englishization seems awfully barbaric to me (I'm thinking of the antiquated 'Hindoo'). My understanding/educated guess is that Semi-romanization has also had its day, and is an artifact of people working on typewriters and old typesetting equipment. The argument for conscientious romanization is not an argument for returning to either of these methods. Am I addressing your concerns, Ori? Brian P. Long 12:26, 5 March 2008 (CST)
Ori - the point isn't to convert names and words into English, it's to convert names and words normally written in non-roman scripts into roman script. Very few English--speaking people (or French or German-speaking people) can read 小泉 純一郎 and know that the former Prime Minister of Japan is being referred to. However, it is not a settled matter that his name should be rendered as "Junichiro Koizumi" or "Koizumi Jun'ichirō", or any of the other possible options.
Words from languages other than English which are written in the Latin alphabet (with or without diacritical marks) should generally be rendered as-is, with pronunciation guides, but that's an entirely different matter. Just because an English-speaker might not know how to pronounce "Schlumberger" or "Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen", we shouldn't rewrite the name phonetically.
Arabic is something of a special case, as it contains sounds not used in English, and the pronunciation varies widely from Marrakech to Dubai. The main point of this proposal is that we set up standards for other languages; each individual standard would have to be decided separately. Anthony Argyriou 13:14, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Thanks Brian P. Long and Anthony Argyriou. I understand you completely. The main existing problem, as I see it, is to do the Romanization so it does provide with acceptable proximity without falling into the IPA rabbit hole. E.g. between "Junichiro Koizumi" and "Koizumi Jun'ichirō" the second may be closer to what should be, but is definitely less readable and I think it would be difficult to maintain "Koizumi Jun'ichirō" consistently throughout CZ. Perhaps we should use minimal Romanization (Junichiro Koizumi) but provide some key with the first mention (e.g. "Junichiro Koizumi (June-E-Cheer-O Coy-Zoom-E)") Ori Redler 08:49, 6 March 2008 (CST)

I have reworded 'reasoning' slightly to try to clarify that I am proposing romanization of words written in other scripts. John Stephenson 21:33, 6 March 2008 (CST)

Right, I have changed item #6 under 'implementation'. The idea is to simply adopt the proposals for romanization after discussion and if necessary a majority vote, rather than creating a new proposal for each and every language. John Stephenson 00:07, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

If there are no further extensive comments, I will move this forward after the weekend (24th-). John Stephenson 00:07, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

I have now asked the Secretary of the Editorial Council to call for sponsorship. John Stephenson 02:16, 24 March 2008 (CDT)
What exactly did you ask? This proposal does not need a formal resolution of the Editorial Council; it will in first instance be decided by everybody who contributes to this page (see the text at top). -- Jitse Niesen 17:22, 30 March 2008 (CDT)
Ah, I jumped the gun! So we have to have a vote. OK, everyone who's contributed: put your three tildes and a hash #~~~ under 'aye' or 'nay' (until - let's say - midnight GMT Friday 18th April):
I guess I missed the deadline here, but I'm supportive of this. One comment (which I hope can be factored into the draft page to be written): I think we should try and eschew creating our own Romanization systems from scratch, as this may (as Brian pointed out above) impede "transition relatively painlessly from other print media to CZ". For most languages written in non-Roman script, there's generally already one (or more :-) Romanization systems, and we should prefer those, precisely for commonality with other written material (which generally will use them). Some of them have taken over Roman symbols for sounds which don't occur in their language, and used them for related sounds in their own which don't have a Roman character; e.g. the 'Q' in the Chinese system Hanyu Pinyin, but these formalisms will be known to people with any familiarity (and we can of course provide guides as well).
The one place I have an open thought is, given a choice between two different systems, one of which is more accurate, and the other of which is more widely used, which to prefer - and whether we should state a general guideline in the Romanization policy document, or leave it up to each language group independently. I would myself lean to 'most accurate' (unless of course it is falling into desuetude, in which case we'd want to avoid it), and 'say so in the general guideline), but I expect others might differ. J. Noel Chiappa 08:56, 20 April 2008 (CDT)
You make some good points here, Noel. My sense is that, to some extent, the 'most accurate' vs. 'most common' question will depend on the language in question. In some cases, the system of Romanization is so ubiquitous that switching to something else would be the bad kind of novelty. In other cases, publishers and writers have been bound to an imprecise system of Romanization by technical constraints, and putting our oar in for a more modern system will be defensible. Brian P. Long 16:03, 20 April 2008 (CDT)

Entering late: Would the ALA-LC Romanization Tables be helpful: --Anthony.Sebastian 16:08, 29 April 2008 (CDT)



  1. John Stephenson
  2. Brian P. Long
  3. Anthony Argyriou 12:08, 14 April 2008 (CDT)
  4. Anthony.Sebastian


Thanks, Brian and Anthony. Are either of you willing to sponsor this for the editorial council? John Stephenson 04:32, 18 April 2008 (CDT)

To clarify, all you need to do is to send an email to the Editorial Council mailing list, saying that this proposal has been approved on an ad hoc basis and that it will become Citizendium policy unless somebody on the Council thinks that it requires a vote (by the Council). However, you may have to wait until the Council is fully formed (talk to Supten Sarbadhikari about that). -- Jitse Niesen 06:46, 19 April 2008 (CDT)
OK; thanks Jitse. John Stephenson 22:59, 19 April 2008 (CDT)

Do we have a quorum here, or do we need to wait on Ori as well? Also, I will send a letter to the full Editorial Council once I hear back on a point of procedure from Dr. Sarbadhikari. Thanks, Brian P. Long 15:42, 20 April 2008 (CDT)

You don't need to wait for Ori. Even if Ori were to vote against, the proposal still attracts the required 2/3 majority. -- Jitse Niesen 07:21, 21 April 2008 (CDT)
Thanks Jitse. Maybe you can help me with my other question-- do we need to wait until there's a full Editorial Council to send this proposal on to them? I thought yes, but maybe you know better. Thanks, Brian P. Long 11:16, 21 April 2008 (CDT)
I don't know. That's for the Editorial Council (specifically, Dr Sarbadhikari) to decide. Please do tell me if you find out as there are more proposals in the pipeline. -- Jitse Niesen 16:44, 21 April 2008 (CDT)
While we're waiting for the Editorial Council issue to be resolved, do we want to go ahead and start drafting policy pages? I can't imagine that anyone will have problems with a proposal to merely discuss Romanization policy for different languages. Happily and unexpectedly, there are actually a few articles being on Hinduism-related stuff where a page to hash out Romanization issues would actually be very helpful. Thanks, Brian P. Long 19:57, 23 April 2008 (CDT)
From the email I got from Dr. Sarbadhikari, it looks like this proposal will make its way through the Editorial Council approval process (or whatever you call it) even without a full council. We still need one more Editorial Council co-sponsor, though... Brian P. Long 05:19, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
If all that is needed is one more Editorial Council member to co-sponsor this initiative, please count me in. My only suggestion would be that some synonyms and related terms for Romanization be added to whatever pages result, because the tem Romanization is likely to be a somewhat obscure reference to a variety of authors for whom English is a second language. But I concur with the proposal and if another co-sponsor is needed, I'm willing. :::::Roger Lohmann 09:18, 25 April 2008 (CDT)

I am lost as to why this proposal exists. You don't need anybody's permission to start a discussion. You just do it. Once you have a draft policy, then you can make a proposal and go through the council processes but all I see is 9 weeks of people waiting for no reason. Get on and do it. That's what a wiki is about. You don't ask permission, you just do it. Derek Harkness 10:40, 25 April 2008 (CDT)

I acknowledge what you are saying, and initially I also thought I could get this started without a resolution. But the Editor-in-Chief advised me to put it through this system, so here it is. Having said that, I'm going to go ahead and start the pages now. John Stephenson 04:30, 26 April 2008 (CDT)
If you look at the proposal pages, the Romanization proposal actually fulfills all of the requirements a proposal is supposed to have. And having a centralized policy about this makes a lot of sense, so that you don't have to have an extended discussion each time someone wants to write an article about Hindooism. I'm not going to claim that this is the most glamorous proposal out there, but I think its utility is fairly clear. Brian P. Long 07:15, 26 April 2008 (CDT)
Brian, I'm not taking issue with the concept the proposal puts forward. In fact, the complete opposite. Who would ever have voted 'No' on this proposal? Would anyone actually say, "We should not discuss new policy." and vote 'No'? This proposal matches every requirement for a proposal except the most important, the requirement that is exists. The page on romanization could have been created without resorting to a proposal thus the proposal is superfluous. Derek Harkness 07:41, 26 April 2008 (CDT)
As I see it, the proposal does in fact do something more. It proposes a mechanism to decide on romanization for foreign languages which does not involve the Editorial Council or the Proposals System. In other words, it streamlines the decision process. -- Jitse Niesen 08:28, 26 April 2008 (CDT)
Exactly. It formally delegates the authority, eventually to per-language ad-hoc groups.
One question, though: Brian spoke of "go ahead and start drafting policy pages". I assume you will start with the full Romanization policy? J. Noel Chiappa 11:37, 26 April 2008 (CDT)

Would the ALA-LC Romanization Tables be helpful: --Anthony.Sebastian 16:00, 29 April 2008 (CDT)

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